The John Bullen Prize
Mark Gregory Spencer, The Reception of David Humes Political Thought in Eighteenth-Century America (University of Western Ontario).
This thesis offers an exhaustive and original investigation of the ways in which the writings of the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume were transmitted to Revolutionary America. It posits a series of challenging hypotheses, then explores each of these in a series of carefully structured and strongly supported arguments. The thesis makes a ground-breaking contribution to the history of the book, but a great deal more, too: it presents exciting and novel arguments about the extent to which eighteenth-century thinkers absorbed Humes complex theories and applied them to the circumstances of the early American republic. It demonstrates skills in a wide number of disciplines, including intellectual history, political theory and philosophy, seldom found in doctoral dissertations and a rare understanding of the ways in which these disciplines intersect, complement and supplement each other. The range of archival materials upon which the author draws is nothing less than astonishing, and Spencers treatment of these sources demonstrates a firm understanding of the vagaries of manuscript and printed materials. The thesis is written in an elegant and highly readable style and will no doubt be widely read and of great interest to American, continental and British scholars alike.