This essay considers the representation of Islam in Scottish Enlightenment historical narratives of progress from 'rudeness' to 'refinement'. Although such accounts of social change pay little attention to religion as a category of analysis, Islam performs an important rhetorical function in those works (for example, William Alexander's The History of Women, 1779) that invoke the condition of women as an index of improvement. William Robertson reframes the idea of 'Islamic society' by focusing on centuries of 'commercial intercourse' connecting European and Asiatic civilisations, however, and a later 'Scottish Orientalism' similarly attends to the everyday lives of ordinary Muslims even as it also addresses levels of collective social progress in more impersonal terms. Influenced by these writings, the crusading fictions of Sir Walter Scott, I argue in conclusion, offer no sustained engagement with Islam but nonetheless suggestively explore the ramifications of cultural encounter, with The Talisman (1825) according symbolic centrality to a Muslim protagonist.


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pp. 17-33
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