A giant of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, David Hume was one of the most important philosophers ever to write in English. He was also a brilliant historian. In this succinct study, Nicholas Phillipson shows how Hume freed history from religion and politics. As a philosopher, Hume sought a way of seeing the world and pursuing happiness independently of a belief in God. His groundbreaking approach applied the same outlook to Britain's history, showing how the past was shaped solely through human choices and actions. In this analysis of Hume's life and works, from his university days in Edinburgh to the rapturous reception of his History of England, Nicholas Phillipson reveals the gradual process by which one of the greatest Western philosophers turned himself into one of the greatest historians of Britain. In doing so, he shows us how revolutionary Hume was, and why his ideas still matter today.
Nicholas Phillipson is Honorary Research Fellow in History at Edinburgh, where he has taught since 1965, and author of a celebrated biography of Hume's great friend and intellectual companion, Adam Smith (Allen Lane 2010). He has held visiting appointments at Princeton, Yale, Tulsa, the Folger Library, Washington DC and the Ludwigs-Maximilian Universitat, Munich. He is co-director of a three-year Leverhulme-funded project on the Science of Man in Scotland. He was an associate editor of the New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, a founder editor of the journal Modern Intellectual History, published by the Cambridge University Press, and is a past president of the Eighteenth Century Scottish Studies Society.