School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Obituary - Nicholas Phillipson

It is with great sadness that the School of History, Classics and Archaeology announces the death, on 24 January 2018, of Nicholas Phillipson, Emeritus Reader in History and Honorary Fellow at the School.

HCA Nicholas Phillipson

Nicholas Tindal Phillipson studied as an undergraduate at the universities of Aberdeen and Cambridge, and completed his PhD at Cambridge in 1967. He joined the History department at Edinburgh as a Lecturer in 1965, and was subsequently promoted to Senior Lecturer and Reader, before retiring in 2004.

Nick’s research over more than five decades had a transformative impact on the field of Scottish Enlightenment scholarship, which he helped to connect to the study of the European Enlightenments more widely. He did so in particular by emphasising the key role played by provincial centres like Edinburgh in shaping the intellectual and cultural activity of the period. Many of his publications have become classics of historical scholarship: examples include his chapters on ‘Culture and Society in the Eighteenth-Century Province: the Case of Edinburgh and the Scottish Enlightenment’ (1975) and ‘The Scottish Enlightenment’ (1981), as well as his books on Hume (Hume. The Philosopher as Historian, first published in 1989 and reissued by Penguin in 2011) and, most recently, on Adam Smith (Adam Smith. An Enlightened Life, published by Allen Lane in 2010).

In the course of his distinguished career, Nick held visiting appointments at the Davis Center at Princeton University, the University of Tulsa, Yale University, the Folger institute, and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. He was a founding editor of the CUP journal Modern Intellectual History, which he helped to establish as a leading publication in its field. From 2002 until 2006, Nick was co-director, with the late Susan Manning, of a large, Leverhulme-funded project on the ‘Science of Man in the Scottish Enlightenment’. When he died, he had been writing a major new book on the Scottish Enlightenment.

Nick was a brilliant teacher to several generations of undergraduates and graduate students, and an inspiring and generous mentor to many younger colleagues. He will be greatly missed by many in the department and beyond.

Dr Thomas Ahnert, Head of History