Profile: Richard B. Sher

(NJIT) Distinguished Professor

Faculty
Department of History

Research Interests: the englightenment, social history of technology, history of the book and print culture, intellectual and cultural history


Richard Sher is Distinguished Professor of History at NJIT. After earning a bachelors degree in philosophy, he pursued an interdisciplinary master’s degree in the history and philosophy of social science at the University of Chicago, where he studied with the sociologist Edward Shils, the historian of anthropology George W. Stocking, Jr., the cultural historian Karl Weintraub, and the French historians Keith Baker and William H. Sewell, Jr. This led to a Ph.D. at Chicago in modern European cultural, social, and intellectual history, including a year of study at the University of Edinburgh with Nicholas Phillipson. Since joining the NJIT faculty in the 1980s, he has published widely on the Enlightenment and on book history, especially in Scotland and the English-speaking Atlantic world (see publications). He has held Guggenheim and NEH Fellowships and has been elected a Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He has presented more than twenty plenary lectures and invited talks in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Ireland, at, among other places, Harvard University, Columbia University, UCLA, Trinity College, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow, the University of Victoria, and Simon Fraser University. His publications have received a number of distinctions, among them the American Historical Association’s Leo Gershoy Award for “the most outstanding work in English on any aspect of the field of 17th- and 18th-century western European history,” awarded in 2007 to The Enlightenment and the Book. He is the founding Executive Secretary of the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society, as well as the editor of its annual newsletter, Eighteenth-Century Scotland, and the general editor of its book series, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Scotland, which published its eighth volume in 2010. He has served on several editorial and advisory boards, including those of the Scottish Literary Review, the Adam Smith Review, and the Yale Editions of the Private Papers of James Boswell, for which he is currently editing two volumes of Boswell’s correspondence. His teaching, honored with NJIT’s excellence in graduate teaching award in 1997, focuses on the cultural and social history of communication and technology in European, American, and world history.

  • Courses Taught

    Undergraduate:
    Technology and Society in European and World History
    Communication through the Ages
    Capstone Seminar: Oil

    Graduate:
    Technology, Culture and History
    Social History of Communication
    Topics in European Cultural and Intellectual History
     

  • Education

    Ph.D., Modern European History, University of Chicago, 1979
    M.A., Divisional Masters in Social Science, University of Chicago, 1971
    B.A., Philosophy, George Washington University, 1970
     

  • Publications

    The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and America. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2006; paperback, with a new preface, 2010.

    Church and University in the Scottish Enlightenment: The Moderate Literati of Edinburgh.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, and Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1985; paperback, Edinburgh University Press, 1991.  

    General Editor, The Works of William Robertson, 12 vols., London: Routledge/Thoemmes Press, 1996.

    Ed., The Glasgow Enlightenment.  East Linton, Scotland: Tuckwell Press, 1995; paperback, Tuckwell Press, 1997 (co-editor: Andrew Hook).

    Ed., Sociability and Society in Eighteenth-Century Scotland.  Edinburgh: Mercat Press, paperback, 1993; also published as a special double issue of Eighteenth-Century Life, vol. 15, nos. 1 & 2, 1991 (co-editor: John Dwyer).

    Ed., Scotland and America in the Age of the Enlightenment.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, and Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1990; paperback, Edinburgh University Press, 1992 (co-editor: Jeffrey R. Smitten).

    “Scotland Transformed: The Eighteenth Century,” in Scotland: A History, ed. Jenny Wormald (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005; paperback, 2011), pp. 177–208.

    “New Light on the Publication and Reception of The Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith Review 1 (2004), pp. 3–29.
     
    “Early Editions of Adam Smith’s Works in Britain and Ireland, 1759–1804,” in A Critical Bibliography of Adam Smith, ed. Keith Tribe (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2002), pp. 13–26.

    “From Scotland to the Strand: The Genesis of Andrew Millar’s Bookselling Career” (with Hugh Amory), in The Moving Market, ed. Peter Isaac and Barry McKay (Winchester: St. Paul’s Bibliographies, and New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Books, 2001), pp. 41–60.

    “The Book in the Scottish Enlightenment,” in The Culture of the Book in the Scottish Enlightenment, ed. Paul Wood (Toronto: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, 2000), pp. 20–40.
     
    “Science and Medicine in the Scottish Enlightenment: The Lessons of Book History,” in The Scottish Enlightenment: Essays in Reinterpretation, ed. Paul Wood (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2000), pp. 99–155.

    “William Buchan’s Domestic Medicine: Laying Book History Open,” in The Human Face of the Book Trade: Print Culture and Its Creators, ed. Peter Isaac and Barry McKay (Winchester: St. Paul’s Bibliographies, and New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Books, 1999), pp. 45–64.

    “Corporatism and Consensus in the Late Eighteenth-Century Book Trade: The Edinburgh Booksellers’ Society in Comparative Perspective,” Book History 1 (1998): 32–93.

    “Charles V and the Book Trade: An Episode in Enlightenment Print Culture,” in William Robertson and the Expansion of Empire, ed. Stewart J. Brown (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 164–95.

    “Commerce, Religion and the Enlightenment in Eighteenth-Century Glasgow,” in Glasgow Volume I: Beginnings to 1830, ed. T. M. Devine and Gordon Jackson (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1995), pp. 312–59.

     “Images of Glasgow in Late Eighteenth-Century Popular Poetry,” in The Glasgow Enlightenment, ed. Hook and Sher (see above), pp. 190–213.

    “‘Something that Put Me in Mind of My Father’: Boswell and Lord Kames,” in Boswell: Citizen of the World, Man of Letters, ed. Irma S. Lustig (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1995), pp. 64–86.

    “From Troglodytes to Americans: Montesquieu and the Scottish Enlightenment on Liberty, Virtue, and Commerce,” in Republicanism, Liberty, and Commercial Society, 1649–1776, ed. David Wootton (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), pp. 368–402 and 477–81.

    “‘An Agreable and Instructive Society’: Benjamin Franklin and Scotland,” in Sociability and Society in Eighteenth-Century Scotland, ed. Dwyer and Sher (see above), pp. 181–93.
        
    “Scottish Divines and Legal Lairds: Boswell’s Scots Presbyterian Identity,” in New Light on Boswell, ed. Greg Clingham (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 28–55.

    “Percy, Shaw and the Ferguson ‘Cheat’: National Prejudice in the Ossian Wars,” in Ossian Revisited, ed. Howard Gaskill (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991), pp. 207–45.

    “Wyndham’s Letters on Scotland and Northern England, 1758,” The Yale University Library Gazette 65 (April 1991): 146–58.

    “Professors of Virtue: The Social History of the Edinburgh Moral Philosophy Chair in the Eighteenth Century,” in Studies in the Philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment, ed. M. A. Stewart, vol. 1 of Oxford Studies in the History of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990; paperback, 1991), pp. 87–126.

     “Witherspoon's Dominion of Providence and the Scottish Jeremiad Tradition,” in Scotland and America in the Age of the Enlightenment, ed. Sher and Smitten (see above), pp. 1–27, 46–64.

    “1688 and 1788: William Robertson on Revolution in Britain and France,” in Culture and Revolution, ed. Paul Dukes and John Dunkley (London and New York: Pinter Publishers, 1990), pp. 98–109.

    “Adam Ferguson, Adam Smith, and the Problem of National Defense” (version different from one cited above), Journal of Modern History 61 (June 1989):  240–68.  (Reprinted in Adam Smith, ed. Knud Haakonssen [International Library of Critical Essays in the History of Philosophy] [Aldershot, Hants, U.K, and Brookfield, Vt.: Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1998], pp. 329–57).
        
    “‘The Favourite of the Favourite’: John Home, Bute and the Politics of Patriotic Poetry,” in Lord Bute: Essays in Re-interpretation, ed. Karl W. Schweizer (Leicester University Press, 1988), pp. 181–212.

    “Literary and Learned Culture,” in People and Society in Scotland: A Social History of Modern Scotland, vol. 1: 1760–1830, ed. T. M. Devine and Rosalind Mitchison (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1988), pp. 127–42 (co-author: Alexander Murdoch).

    “Storm Over the Literati,” Cencrastus, No. 28 (Winter 1987/88): 42–44.

    “Literature and the Church of Scotland,” in The History of Scottish Literature, vol. 2: 1660–1800, ed. Andrew Hook (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1987), pp. 259–71.

    “William Robertson and David Hume: Three Letters, “Hume Studies Tenth Anniversary Issue (1985):  69–86 (co-author: M. A. Stewart).

    “Patronage and Party in the Church of Scotland, 1750–1800,” in Church, Politics and Society: Scotland, 1408–1929, ed. Norman Macdougall (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1983), pp. 197–220 (co-author: Alexander Murdoch).

    “Moderates, Managers and Popular Politics in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Edinburgh: The Drysdale ‘Bustle’ of the 1760s,” in New Perspectives on the Politics and Culture of Early Modern Scotland, ed. John Dwyer et al. (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1982), pp. 179–209.

    “‘Those Scotch Imposters and Their Cabal’: Ossian and the Scottish Enlightenment,” in Man and Nature/L’homme et la nature: Proceedings of the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 1, ed. Roger L. Emerson et al. (London, Ontario: University of Western Ontario, 1982), pp. 55–63.
     

  • Awards

    Overseers Excellence in Service Awards, 2013

    Elected fellowships: Royal Society of Edinburgh, Edinburgh (Corresponding Fellow), 2009–; Royal Historical Society, London (Fellow), 1991–

    Lifetime Achievement Award: Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society, 2006

    Publication Awards:
    2007 Leo Gershoy Award from the American Historical Association, for The Enlightenment and the Book, 2008
    2007 Frank Watson Book Prize from the University of Guelph, for The Enlightenment and the Book, 2007
    Percy G. Adams Article Prize from the Southeastern American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, for “Corporatism and Consensus in the Late Eighteenth-Century Book Trade,” 2000
    Honorable Mention, John Ben Snow Prize, North American Conference on British Studies, for Church and University in the Scottish Enlightenment, 1986

    Short-Term Fellowships and Grants:
    National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2009
    Visiting Fellow, Centre for the History of the Book, University of Edinburgh, Summer 2000
    Visiting Scholar, University College Dublin, Summer 1999
    Spencer Foundation Small Research Grant, 1998–99
    Guggenheim Fellowship, 1994–95
    National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipends, 1994 and 1986
    Fellow of the Institute Project Scottish Enlightenment, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh University, Summer 1986

    University Excellence in Teaching Award, Graduate Level, NJIT, 1997