From its ancient origins in the 1495 founding of King’s College through to thriving global endeavours in 2020, the University of Aberdeen boasts a historic legacy spanning 525 years of leading and engaging with intellectual currents of the wider world. Yet quatercentenary and quincentennial memorial histories of the University of Aberdeen portray the institution from a regional and national perspective. The Aberdeen University librarian between 1894 and 1926, Peter John Anderson (1853-1926), edited the quatercentenary commemoration volume, Studies in the History of the University published by the New Spalding Club in 1906. Serving as the secretary of the New Spalding Club, Anderson sought to promote the Club’s interests in the North-East of Scotland by shedding new light on the history of the University. In celebration of the quinquennial anniversary, another brief illustrated history of the University by Jennifer Carter and Colin McLaren—Crown and Gown—published by Aberdeen University Press in 1994 succinctly surveys University achievements as historically significant in Scottish contexts. This podcast series, drawn from a forthcoming edited volume to be published by Aberdeen University Press, presents a new history of the University of Aberdeen, one that accounts for the University’s activities in the transnational and global transmission of ideas since its foundation.
James Ramsay (1733-1789): Scottish Abolitionism in the Anglo-Atlantic World
This podcast explores the life and influence of the Rev. James Ramsay, an Anglican priest, ship’s surgeon, and pioneering abolitionist who was educated at King’s College between 1749 and 1753.
James Beattie (1735-1803): Philosopher and Poet
In 1773 James Beattie, professor of Moral Philosophy and Logic at Marischal College, Aberdeen, visited London to petition (successfully) for a royal pension on the back of his sudden fame as author of An Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth, In Opposition to Sophistry and Scepticism (1770), an attack on the ‘infidelity’ of the times, and the writings of David Hume in particular. Beattie’s philosophy and poetry sheds light not only on the debates that animated King’s and Marischal colleges in the eighteenth century, but also on the role of the Aberdeen Enlightenment in the development of Romanticism in Scotland and beyond.
Thomas Reid (1710-1796): The Wise Club in the Aberdeen Enlightenment
The intellectual history of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, known as the ‘Wise Club’ after its founding in 1758, maps onto the institutional history of King’s and Marischal colleges in the eighteenth century. The proceedings of philosophical and literary societies were woven into the fabric of eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment intellectual culture, and, in particular, they promoted collaborative knowledge exchange within a university community.
Duncan Liddel (1561-1613): Medicine and Mathematics during Northern Europe's Age of Confessionalisation
The endowment of a chair in Mathematics in 1613 was one of Duncan Liddel's most important legacies for Marischal College. Professor Friedrich discusses Liddel's impact on the exchange of knowledge during the Northern European Renaissance and its transmission to and from Scotland.
The Local Rise and International Role of Marischal College, 1593-1860
From its inception the purpose of Marischal College is fascinating. Most historical discussion has centred on its being a more seriously ‘Protestant’ alternative to the Episcopal (by which many mean crypto-Catholic) King’s College in Old Aberdeen. Unfortunately, this does not hold up to scrutiny. Founded as a civic university that catered to the sons of Aberdeen’s elite, Marischal prepared young men for careers in medicine, religion, and ‘commerce’ (broadly defined). Consequently, King’s and Marischal developed different international ‘profiles’ that reflected their diverging institutional objectives. What defined Marischal from its inception to the union of the two colleges in 1860 was its international student mobility both in students leaving Marischal for a life abroad and for those coming to Aberdeen from the far corners not only of the British imperial world but even further afield. Professor Naphy surveys the global and institutional history of Marischal College from its founding to the union of 1860. Marischal may have started as an institution for educating the children of local elites but the civic university attracted international students as an ideal destination to prepare young men for public life, which gradually elevated its reputation beyond the northeast of Scotland as an institution firmly embedded not only in Aberdeen but also the wider world.
Find the transcript online: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/events/resources/index.php#panel1550
Before and after Bishop Elphinstone: Creativity and learning in medieval and renaissance Aberdeen
King’s College has a prehistory. Dr Jackson Armstrong (Senior Lecturer in History, University of Aberdeen) sheds new light on the founding of King’s College as a kingdom-building endeavour that underscored Scottish engagement with the age of the renaissance. This involved the tenure of Archdeacon John Barbour at the medieval cathedral of St Machar’s by the Don, who in the 1380s composed The Brus—an epic poem that is considered to be the foundational work of Scots literature—and in the chantry chaplains of St Nicholas in the adjacent royal burgh on the Dee.
Transcript for this episode: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/events/resources/index.php#panel1550