Emerson’s book, An Enlightened Duke: The Life of Archibald Campbell (1682-1761), Earl of Ilay and 3rd Duke of Argyll (Humming Earth Press, Glasgow, 2013), is the first biography to be written on one of the great 18th century British politicians, a man neglected because of the disappearance of his personal papers. Over many years, Emerson has collected materials to paint a picture of a very private, but important man.
“This is not only the biography of a man, albeit the most important man in the country, it is also the biography of a nation as Scotland was integrated – with Argyll at the forefront – into the new United Kingdom,” said University of Dundee professor Chris Whatley, convener of the History Book of the Year.
Argyll is usually remembered as a patronage politician who ran Scottish affairs for ministries in London from 1725-42, and again from 1747-61. His patronage changed the nature of Scottish universities, Kirk, and administration, and pushed forward the Scottish Enlightenment (1700-1820) for which Scotland is now known because of the contributions of men like Francis Hutcheson, William Cullen, Adam Smith, Joseph Black, Lord Kames and William Robertson – all of who got patronage from him.
In addition, Argyll was the founder and first Governor of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the first Governor of the British Linen Bank, the originator of the first Scottish development agency, The Board of Trustees for the Fisheries and Manufactures and a notable improver of estates in Scotland and in England. On the latter, he maintained as good a botanical garden as the country had, a precursor of Kew Gardens to which some of his plants went after his death. In his gardens, he acclimatized 24 new species of plants to the British climate and introduced other plants which changed British gardens and the landscape by introducing more colour and more evergreens.
As an amateur scientist, he collected and used astronomical instruments and chemical apparatus. Indeed, he became something of a universal man who functioned as a skilled lawyer and made medicines for his servants. He put together a remarkable library and was a patron of notable architects and painters.
Emerson’s book restores him to the place in British and Scottish history which he merits.