Macpherson the Historian: History Writing, Empire and Enlightenment in the Works of James Macpherson

Mairi MacPherson, Jim MacPherson

Research output: Book/ReportBook


First study of James Macpherson (1736-1796) as an historian:
1. Situates Macpherson as a key figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, broadening our understanding of historiography and the relationship between history and fiction
2. Explores Macpherson’s entire corpus – literary, historical, political - to enable new research into Enlightenment disciplines, Romantic notions of conjectural history and interdisciplinary thinkers, adding to the Humanities more widely rather than just Literature or History by re-evaluating an author traditionally studied in Literature as an Enlightenment figure
3. Investigates examples of nation-building and questions of post-Union Scottish and British identity, which will change your perception of national (Scottish, British) and regional (Highland) identities in the Enlightenment and beyond
4. The story remains relevant today: Macpherson as a Scot in London, who retained close connections to his Highland home while promoting a sustained and nuanced British identity without losing sight of Scottishness in his works, reflects contemporary notions of national identity

This is the first book-length study of James Macpherson (1736-1796) that considers him as an historian. From his early poetry, to the Ossianic Collections, his prose histories, and his later political writing, Macpherson’s subject was the past and he engaged with the latest Enlightenment theories about how to write history.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages296
ISBN (Electronic)9781474411189
ISBN (Print)9781474411165
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2023


  • Enlightenment
  • British Empire
  • British Identities
  • Scotland
  • Ossian
  • James Macpherson
  • Historiography


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