Since its original publication in 1985, Church and University in the Scottish Enlightenment has come to be regarded as a classic work in 18th-century Scottish history and Enlightenment studies.
It depicts Hugh Blair, Alexander Carlyle, Adam Ferguson, John Home, and William Robertson as an intimate coterie that played a central role in the Scottish Enlightenment, seen here not only as an intellectual but as a cultural movement.
These men were among the leaders in the University of Edinburgh, in the Moderate party in the Church of Scotland, and in Edinburgh's thriving clubs.
They used their institutional influence and their books, plays, sermons, and pamphlets to promulgate the tenets of Moderatism, including polite Presbyterianism, Christian Stoicism, civic humanism, social and political conservatism, and the tolerant, cosmopolitan values of the international Enlightenment. Using a wide variety of sources and an interdisciplinary methodology, this collective biography portrays these 'Moderate Iiterati' as zealous activists for the cause in which they believed, ranging from support for a Scots militia, Ossian, and Roman Catholic relief to opposition to the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 and the American and French Revolutions