Henry Home, Lord Kames

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Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696 – 27 December 1782) was a Scottish philosopher of the 18th century. Born at Kames House, between Eccles and Birgham, Berwickshire, and educated at home by a private tutor, he became an advocate and was one of the leaders of the Scottish Enlightenment. In 1752, he was "raised to the bench", thus acquiring the title of Lord Kames.

Home wrote much about the importance of property to society. In his Essay Upon Several Subjects Concerning British Antiquities, written just after the Jacobite rising of 1745 he described how the politics of Scotland were not based on loyalty to Kings or Queens as Jacobites had said but on royal land grants given in return for loyalty.

In Historical Law Tracts and later in Sketches on the History of Man he described human history as having four distinct stages. The first was as a hunter-gatherer where people avoided each other out of competition. The second stage he described was a herder of domestic animals which required forming larger societies. No laws were needed at these stages except those given by the head of the family or society. Agriculture was the third stage requiring greater cooperation and new relationships to allow for trade or employment (or slavery). He argued that 'the intimate union among a multitude of individuals, occasioned by agriculture' required a new set of rights and obligations in society. This requires laws and law enforcers. A fourth stage moves from villages and farms to seaports and market towns requiring yet more laws and complexity but also much to benefit from. Kames could see these stages within Scotland itself[1], with the pastoral/agricultural highlands, the agricultural/industrial lowlands and the growing commercial ("polite") towns of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The above studies created the genre of the story of civilization and defined the fields of anthropology and sociology and therefore the modern study of history for two hundred years.

Home was also on the panel of judges in the Joseph Knight case which ruled that there could be no slavery in Scotland.

He enjoyed intelligent conversation and cultivated a large number of intellectual associates, among them John Home, David Hume and James Boswell.[1]. Lord Monboddo was also a frequent debater of Kames, although these two usually had a fiercely competitive and adversarial relationship.

Major works

  • Remarkable Decisions of the Court of Session (1728)
  • Essays upon Several Subjects in Law (1732)
  • Sketches of the History of Man (1734)
  • Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion (1751)
  • Principles of Equity (1760)
  • Introduction to the Art of Thinking (1761)
  • Elements of Criticism (1762)


External links

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