Patrick Geddes and the Celtic Renascence of the 1890s

  • Megan Ferguson

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The fin de siècle was a time of change in nationalism, culture, art, science and religion. Nations and groups grew into defining themselves through movements such as Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau. Some groups sought to define themselves through reviving aspects of their old cultures as inspiration. For instance, Finland found inspiration in the Kalavala and William Morris inspired Arts and Crafts through England’s Middle Ages. Scotland had many pasts to choose from for inspiration. Patrick Geddes found inspiration in its Celtic past. Geddes is best known for his work as a town planner and sociologist, but has been under-valued for his work as the leader of the 1890s cultural movement in Edinburgh, the Celtic Renascence. In an effort to revive the flagging Old Town, Geddes created a community in Ramsay Garden on the Castle Esplanade. Ramsay Garden became home to Summer Meetings, University Hall functions, and the Old Edinburgh School of Art, and out of all this emerged The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal. The Evergreen served as a mouthpiece for the Celtic Renascence, a way for them to communicate the life of Ramsay Garden to those outside it. It was a journal which included art, literature and science, brought to the reader on a seasonal basis. Geddes’s view of Celticism was inclusive, he sought to include all peoples of Celtic nations (a view not all agreed with). But his Celtic Renascence was more than just a small art movement, it was part of his larger work to improve city life, to get people to broaden their perspectives and to generalise rather than specialise. Geddes used the Celtic Renascence, like any of his other projects, as a tool for positive and lasting change.
    Date of Award2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorCharles McKean (Supervisor)


    • Scottish history
    • Social and cultural history
    • Patrick Geddes
    • John Duncan
    • William Sharp
    • Fiona Macleod

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