William Macintosh was an eighteenth-century Scottish merchant, Caribbean plantation owner, world traveller, and controversial author of Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa (1782). He was a product of empire, but also sought to shape and influence Britain’s imperial project through persuasion and publication. This blog is a record of my efforts to recover Macintosh from the shadows and to throw new light onto his life and work in the production of a monograph provisionally entitled The power of print: William Macintosh and the transnational circulation of radical ideas in the Age of Revolution.
Macintosh’s life was one lived through the Republic of Letters and during the Age of Revolution. The list of those who met, read, or corresponded with Macintosh—Louis-Antoine, Comte de Bougainville, Jacques Pierre Brissot, Edmund Burke, Aaron Burr, Olaudah Equiano, Charles Fox, Philip Francis, Catherine Grand, Warren Hastings, Johann Gottfried Herder, Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith, William Pitt the Younger, and George Washington, among many others—signals to his significance to the intellectual and political life of the last quarter of the eighteenth century.
I am fortunate to have had the assistance of four undergraduate students, and one postgraduate student, from the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London in the transcription of archival material:
Rhys Gazeres de Baradieux, Department of Geography Placement Research Assistant, June 2017.
Jaz Bigden, MSc Global Futures: Culture and Creativity Work-Based Learning Research Assistant.
Ophelia King, Department of Geography Placement Research Assistant, June 2016.
Lauren Muir, Department of Geography Placement Research Assistant, June 2016.
Samuel Thatcher, Department of Geography Placement Research Assistant, June 2017.
Since April 2020, my dad, Alex Keighren, has kindly lent his assistance in the transcription of Macintosh’s correspondence.
In supporting this project, I would like to thank the Leverhulme Trust for the award of a Research Fellowship in academic year 2020/21.
Publications emerging from the project
Keighren, Innes M. “The confiscated library of William Macintosh in the Bibliothèque municipale d’Avignon”. The Library: The Transactions of The Bibliographical Society (forthcoming).
Keighren, Innes M. “A contested vision of empire: anonymity, authority, and mobility in the reception of William Macintosh’s Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa (1782)”. In Empire and mobility in the long nineteenth century, edited by David Lambert and Peter Merriman, 50–68. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020.
Keighren, Innes M. “From the archive: on the trail of William Macintosh”. Historical Geography Research Group Newsletter, winter (2017–18): 4–5. [PDF]
Keighren, Innes M. “Circulating seditious knowledge: the ‘daring absurdities, studied misrepresentations, and abominable falsehoods’ of William Macintosh”. In Mobilities of knowledge, edited by Heike Jöns, Peter Meusburger, and Michael Heffernan, 67–83. Cham: Springer, 2017. [PDF]