Dr Robin Mills
Leverhulme Postdoctoral Research Fellow
I completed my BA at the LSE and MA at Queen Mary. I studied for a doctorate at the University of Cambridge while actually living in London and moonlighting as a Guest Lecturer at the LSE. With no respect for internecine London college rivalries, after leaving the LSE (and Cambridge) I joined King’s College London for two years as a Temporary Lecturer in the History of Political Thought before then taking a near identical two-year post at University College London. Realising that I needed to get out of central London I made the long trek east in October 2018 to join Queen Mary University of London as a Leverhulme Postdoctoral Research Fellow. The next career goal, clearly, is to get a job at Birkbeck, UEL or Goldsmiths. My project for the next three years at QMUL is entitled ‘The Scottish Enlightenment Explains the Gods, c. 1740–1830’.
HST7701 - Religion and the Age of Enlightenment
The historical subdiscipline I feel most at home in, I guess, is 'Enlightenment studies'. Easily bored by working on the same thing, I have research irons in various fires including: the experience of Revolutionary-era French émigrés in the Channel Islands, the role of British half-pay officers in peopling the Empire, life and work of the Scottish poet and philosopher James Beattie (1735–1803), seventeenth-century English attempts to comprehend the relationship between religion and human nature, and a burgeoning interest in if and how properly representative ‘world histories’ of key topics (love, death, sex, friendship, race and so on) can be studied. My Level 5 module A Short Intellectual History of Love (starting in 2019/20) emerges out of this latter interest.
My Leverhulme funding, however, is for a project titled ‘The Scottish Enlightenment Explains the Gods, c. 1740–1830’. This project restores the study of the origins and development of religion to its rightful place at the forefront of the history of the European Enlightenment. It does so by examining how the long-overlooked development of social scientific theories of religion by Scottish Enlightenment thinkers (1740–1830) set the agenda for the continent-wide study of religion for the following century. My projects hopes to establish a new understanding of the Enlightenment’s role in the emergence of the secular understanding of religion and, in the process, overturns the current scholarly orthodoxy that the investigation of religion was of marginal importance to Enlightenment thinkers. My Masters course ‘Religion and the Age of Enlightenment’ relates to this project.
Edited with Dr Craig Smith (University of Glasgow), The Scottish Enlightenment: the ‘Science of Man’, Social Theory and Moral Philosophy. Essays in Honour of Professor Christopher Berry. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021.
Book Chapters and Articles
'James Beattie, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the character of Common Sense philosophy', History of European Ideas,
'Defining Man as Animal Religiosum in English Religious Writing ca. 1650–ca. 1700', Church History, 88:4 (2019). 925-952. doi:10.1017/S0009640719002464
‘The “Historical Question” at the End of the Scottish Enlightenment: Dugald Stewart on the Natural Origin of Religion, Universal Consent, and Religious Diversity’, Intellectual History Review, vol. 28, iss. 4 (2018), 529–554.
'William Falconer’s Remarks on the Influence of Climate (1781) and the Study of Religion in Enlightenment England', Intellectual History Review, vol 28 iss. 2 (2018) 293–315.
'The Common Sense of a Poet: James Beattie’s Essay on Truth (1770)' in Brad Bow (ed.), Common Sense in the Scottish Enlightenment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 125–49.
'Alexander Ross’s Pansebeia (1653), Religious Compendia and the Seventeenth-Century Study of Religious Diversity', The Seventeenth Century, vol. 31 no. 3 (2016), 285–310.
'Lord Kames's Analysis of the Natural Origins of Religion: the Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion (1751)', Historical Research, vol. 89 no. 246 (2016), 751–75.
‘The Reception of “That Bigoted Silly Fellow” James Beattie’s Essay on Truth in Britain 1770–1830’, History of European Ideas, vol. 41 no. 8 (2015), 1049–1079.
‘Archibald Campbell’s Necessity of Revelation (1739) – the Science of Human Nature’s First Study of Religion’, History of European Ideas, vol. 41 no. 6 (2015), 728–46.
‘Some Unpublished Correspondence of James Beattie, 1759–1769’, Eighteenth-Century Scotland: The Newsletter of the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society (June 2014), 6–10.
For some years I have been involved with the excellent IF Project. IF is a ‘free university’ than runs free university-level arts and humanities short courses intended for those who have not studied for a degree or have been deterred or prevented from studying for cultural or financial reasons.
He is a semi-regular interviewer for St Andrew's Institute of Intellectual History's Talking Intellectual History podcast series.