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James Buchan

Crowded with Genius: The Scottish Enlightenment ***

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In the early eighteenth century, Edinburghwas a filthy backwater synonymous with poverty and disease, and recently famous for religious persecution. When this small walled-off city surrendered to a handful of Highlanders in 1745, things had never looked bleaker. Yet by century's end, the ancient Scottish capital had become the marvel of modern Europe, thanks to a group of friends whose trailblazing ingenuity and passion for ideas changed the way all of us look at the world.