Last month we welcomed to the searchroom Susan Smith-Peter from the History department of the City University of New York/ College of Staten Island.
Susan is researching Russian students who studied at the University of Glasgow at the time of Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment for her book, dealing with Russian civil society and regional identity: Imagining Russian Regions: Regional Identity and Civil Society in the Russian Empire, 1700-1861.
Here, she was researching the University careers of Desnitsky and Tretyakov, who matriculated at the University in 1761. Tretyakov graduated from the University of Glasgow with an MA 1764 and an LLD 1767. He then went on to become Professor of Roman Law at the University of Moscow (1767-76).
Desnitsky graduated from the University of Glasgow with an MA in 1765 and an LLD in 1767 before becoming Professor of Russian Law at the University of Moscow (1767-87). He is also famous for a violent attack on John Anderson on the 8th December 1767, for which he ‘publically begged pardon’ (Addison’s matriculations). These men were very important figures in eighteenth century Russia as they were responsible for introducing Adam Smith’s concept of a civil society to Russia.
Susan’s work will be an applied History on how the Smithian ideas were put into practice in Russia, for example through Government policies like the development of public libraries, and so it will include not only information about these two Russian students, but also extensive references to both Adam Smith and John Millar: very important figures in the history of the University of Glasgow and the Scottish Enlightenment period.
One of Susan’s favourite sources she has found in our collection is the letter of apology that Desnitsky wrote following the attack on Anderson. Apparently, he attacked him because Anderson rudely rejected Desnitsky’s request to sit in the choir seats. This letter (GUA 30191) brings a human touch to the historical sources about the figures and also charts the personal relationships between the Scottish and Russian students.
Susan also visited Special Collections where she was fascinated to see a very rare, handwritten, Latin-Russian Dictionary from before the 1750s that William Hunter collected. This is a unique manuscript dictionary and was particularly interesting because most Russian dictionaries date from 1780s onwards. It was very useful, therefore, in tracing the use of Russian words before that time.
Susan has very kindly agreed to share some of her findings with Kerry McDonald who is the manager of our International Students project: ‘The International Story of the University of Glasgow’, which is now underway. Thank you very much for your information Susan!
If you’d like to find out more about this topic, here is a link to a useful collected volume titled “Scotland and Russia in the Enlightenment” that Susan recommends: ideashistory.org.ru/pdfs/a15.pdf
Categories: Archive Services (GUAS)