Clubs and Societies
Discussion, debate and conviviality
Many of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment knew each other well, both professionally and socially.
The ‘literati’, or intellectuals, were mainly based in the university towns of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, and were often members of the same clubs and societies. These ranged from literary, philosophical and scientific debating societies, to more convivial dining and drinking clubs. Whatever their particular focus, they all encouraged lively debate, mutual improvement, and the exchange of ideas.
The 18th-century clubs and societies were also characterised by their cross-disciplinary focus. The boundaries between different subject areas were not as fixed as they are today. It was quite common for philosophers, artists, scientists, churchmen, and lawyers to be members of the same society and to share ideas and discoveries from their different fields of knowledge.
The membership of the more convivial drinking and dining clubs often spanned different social and professional classes – advocates and surgeons rubbed shoulders with bakers and builders.