Blasphemies of Thomas Aikenhead: Boundaries of Belief on the by Michael F. Graham

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By Michael F. Graham

Thomas Aikenhead, a pupil on the collage of Edinburgh, was once hanged for blasphemy in 1697. His tale brings jointly the various severe subject matters in Scottish and British heritage in an period of transition from the progressive upheavals of the hugely confessionalized 17th century to the extra open civil society which got here to represent the Enlightenment. Aikenhead's perspectives, which puzzled the origins of Scripture, the old elements of Moses and Jesus, and the assumed superiority of Christianity over different doctrines, may later seem within the mainstream of Enlightenment discourse. yet in 1696-7 they have been poisonous. Michael Graham's microhistory, the 1st of its sort, areas his tale firmly within the social and political context of Edinburgh and Scotland within the 1690s whereas even as determining the impacts on his pondering, the criminal matters raised by way of his trial and the methods it used to be considered through contemporaries in Scotland and England. The Aikenhead case illuminates a few issues in late-seventeenth-century heritage:

* The effect of books and interpreting

* the expansion of upper schooling

* the character of "public opinion" in Britain extra quite often, because the case used to be coated in newspapers released in London

* The methods laws was once drafted and used

* The fissures within the non secular politics of england after the "Glorious Revolution."

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194 –201, 208–10. 37. Allan MacInnes, The British Revolution, 1629–1660 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p. 115. For a political narrative of the period, see David Stevenson, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Scotland, 1644 –1651 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1977). 38. Stevenson, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, p. 240. 39. Ian Cowan, The Scottish Covenanters, 1660–1688 (London: Gollancz, 1976), pp. 50–63. 40. Memoirs or Spiritual Exercises of Mistress Ross (Edinburgh, 1735), p.

3. [Thomas Morer], A Short Account of Scotland (London, 1702), p. 71. The tall building near the Parliament Close (called Robertson’s Land) also impressed the English lawyer Joseph Taylor, who visited in 1705. ), A Journey to Edinburgh in Scotland by Joseph Taylor, Late of the Inner Temple (Edinburgh: William Brown, 1903), p. 107. 4. Dingwall, Late Seventeenth-Century Edinburgh, p. 12. 29 Edinburgh and Scotland in the 1690s 5. [Morer], Short Account, pp. 72–3. 6. Ibid. p. 77. 7. Ibid. p. 84. In fact, the term ‘university’ was sometimes used to describe the institution as early as the 1680s.

44 In many ways, the outlook for the Presbyterian cause improved after the accession of James, duke of York, to the thrones of Scotland and England in 1685. Catholicism was unpopular in all but a few regions, and the bishops and aristocratic supporters of the established Episcopal Church had reason to worry about the direction in which policies were pointing, particularly once the new king extended toleration to Catholics and (even worse in conservative eyes) Quakers in 1686. The following year he made the same offer to Presbyterians, despite their association with the covenants.

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