Welcome to the Moodle page for the seminar "Scotland through the Eyes of Boswell & Johnson." 

This course views Scottish history and culture through the eyes of two literary titans of the 18th century: Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, the respective authors of among the most significant dictionaries and biographies ever published in English.

The Scottish journey they embarked on together in the autumn of 1773, and the journals they wrote along the way, reveal wonderful insight into how Scotland was transforming at one of the most traumatic points in its history, as many people they met in the Highlands and Islands were still reeling from the aftermath of the failed Jacobite rebellions. Indeed, Boswell and Johnson describe their encounters with several notable participants in the most famous rising of all, the so-called ’45. While the titles of their works, Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland by Johnson and Boswell’s Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, focus on the more remote parts of Scotland, the authors also travelled to many other fascinating regions along the way. We will explore, among other places, Edinburgh at the height of the Scottish Enlightenment as the authors rub shoulders with some of Europe’s most influential thinkers, and the home of the third-oldest university in the Anglophone world (hint: it’s not in England…). This journey will not only reveal much about Scotland and its people at this critical point in history, but how the places, people and events described by Boswell and Johnson have shaped the country and its place in the United Kingdom today.

As our primary text, we will use the following single-volume edition of both men’s journals, as edited by Ronald Black:

Johnson, S. et al. (2011) To the Hebrides: Samuel Johnson’s Journey to the western islands of Scotland and and James Boswell’s Journal of a tour to the Hebrides. Second edition. Edinburgh: Birlinn.

ISBN: 9781780270319

All students should purchase their own copy of this key text; other resources will be made available.