Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Historians have seen John Simson (1668-1740) as either a heretic or a rationalist. He is a frequently mentioned, but seldom analysed, figure in eighteenth century Scottish history. This dissertation seeks to place Simson in his doctrinal and political context, proving that he was a faithful Calvinist Whig whose career was an important factor in creating conditions in which the Scottish Enlightenment could flourish with the approval and protection of the Church of Scotland.;Simson was elected to the Glasgow University Divinity chair in 1708. Despite his conventional background and education as a son of the manse, within a few years he was causing concern to some members of the Church of Scotland because of the changes which he had instituted in the teaching of theological concepts and pastoral ministry. The alarm raised among these ultra-orthodox churchmen led to Simson being charged with unsound teaching in 1714, and a second time in 1726. While the first heresy process against Simson resulted in a mild reprimand, the second trial ended with his suspension from teaching and preaching, although he retained his University title and emoluments.;Simson's cases were complicated by the interference of political factions who were contending for control of Scottish affairs and patronage during much of his tenure of the Glasgow chair. His membership of the Presbytery of Glasgow as an ordained minister, along with his position in the University, meant that his political allegiance had considerable significance in determining his fate.;The dissertation begins by studying Simson's life, his pedagogical methods, and the theological and political background to his cases. It then examines the actual accusations against him and his responses to them. Through this narrative approach, Simson's career may be seen as illustrative of the interaction of doctrinal and political factors in early eighteenth century Scottish academic life. Partly as a result of his tribulations, by the 1740s a radical change had been effected in the way in which ministers were permitted to teach in the Universities; a change which allowed the development of an institutional Enlightenment in Scotland.



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