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Capital of the Mind

History, History
Publication Date
27 August 2007
Paperback (also available as an eBook)
Available for Sale
Birlinn Limited
16pp b/w plates

Capital of the Mind

How Edinburgh Changed the World
by James Buchan - Find out more about the author


eBook also available from the iBookstore

'Capital of the Mind creates a psychogeography as lovely as Edinburgh’s own. A breathless chronicle of the fondness of genius for its own company’ – Sunday Observer

'Buchan’s confident and astringent study is based on an informed love of Scotland and its stories are told to excellent effect’ – Daily Telegraph

'[An] elegant portrait of Edinburgh in the age of Enlightenment’ – Times Literary Supplement

’As Buchan says in this marvellous book, “there is no city like Edinburgh in all the world”' – Sunday Times

'Well-informed...full of quirky anecdotes.’ – Sunday Telegraph

’Buchan’s history makes a witty and comprehensive guide to the birth bot just of modern Scotland but of modernity itself.’ - Sunday Herald

’Does for 18th-centry Edinburgh...what Roy Poerter’s Enlightenment: How Britain Created the Modern World did for Britain’ - BBC History Magazine

In the early 18th century, Edinburgh was a filthy backwater town synonymous with poverty and disease. Yet by century’s end, it had become the marvel of modern Europe, home to the finest minds of the day and their breathtaking innovations in architecture, politics, science, the arts, and economies – all of which continues to echo loudly today.

Adam Smith penned The Wealth of Nations. James Boswell produced The Life of Samuel Johnson. Alongside them, pioneers such as David Hume, Robert Burns, James Hutton, and Sir Walter Scott transformed the way we understand our perceptions and feelings, sickness and health, relations between the sexes, the natural world, and the purpose of existence.

James Buchan beautifully reconstructs the intimate geographic scale and boundless intellectual milieu of Enlightenment Edinburgh. With the scholarship of an historian and the elegance of a novelist, he tells the story of the triumph of this unlikely town and the men whose vision brought it into being.

John Buchan was a Scottish diplomat, barrister, journalist, historian, poet and novelist. He published nearly thirty novels and seven collections of short stories. He was born in Perth, an eldest son, and studied at Glasgow and Oxford. In 1901 he became a barrister of the Middle Temple and a private secretary to the High Commissioner for South Africa. In 1907 he married Susan Charlotte Grosvenor and they subsequently had four children. After spells as a war correspondent, Lloyd George’s Director of Information and Conservative MP, Buchan moved to Canada in 1935 where he served as Governor General until his death in 1940.

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