Thomas Muir Lecture on Democracy and Civil Society

The annual Glasgow Thomas Muir Lecture on Democracy and Civil Society highlights traditions of democratic thought in Scotland as they link with the wider world. Its aims are to examine the history of political reform as viewed through the prism of Scottish civic life and to consider present challenges to democracy and civil society.

The lecture series is named in commemoration of Thomas Muir of Huntershill (1765-1799), the Glasgow-born martyr and ‘father of Scottish Democracy’, who was a former student of the University of Glasgow. Muir was actively involved in the reform movement of late eighteenth-century Scotland and his activities in the Friends of the People led to his trial for sedition and exile to Botany Bay. The lecture is a collaboration between the Friends of Thomas Muir society and the University of Glasgow and is supported by the Centre for Scottish and Celtic Studies at the University.

Muir lecture 2019 – Prof Tom Devine

Tom Devine

In our inaugural lecture, Scotland’s most eminent historian Professor Sir Tom Devine addressed the foundations of elite power in eighteenth-century Scotland.

Much historical treatment of the 'Scottish Martyr' Thomas Muir and his fellow reformers in the 1790s is usually confined to a consideration of their courageous challenge to the state until arrest, imprisonment and transportation ended their crusade. This lecture takes a different approach. By looking at the other side of the hill, Prof Devine explored the reasons why a corrupt and wholly unrepresentative system of government not only survived in Muir's lifetime but managed to endure, despite much later popular opposition, for many years thereafter.