Conference: What was Moderate about the Enlightenment? Moderation in Eighteenth-Century Europe, Newcastle, January 17-18, 2022

In recent years, the moderate enlightenment has been invoked as the mainstream, conservative alternative to the radical enlightenment that failed. Historians more sympathetic to a moderate enlightenment have conflated it with religious enlightenment, whether Catholic, Anglican, Arminian or Presbyterian. Moderate enlightenment has implied a measured scepticism, the retreat from metaphysics and speculation, a turn to history, or compromise with established authorities. Rarely, however, has the relationship between moderation and enlightenment been considered in depth: the question ‘what was moderate about the Enlightenment?’ has received no comprehensive answer.

This conference approaches this question by exploring ideas, ideals and practices of moderation in the intellectual culture of eighteenth-century Europe. Submissions of papers are invited from scholars working on the enlightenment as an intellectual-historical and political-philosophical category, as well as scholars working on aspects of eighteenth-century European intellectual culture which engage moderation or its synonyms. Papers could consider:

  • Regional frameworks for approaching the moderate enlightenment.
  • Moderation in the thought of well-known, or more obscure, eighteenth-century intellectual figures.
  • The theoretical, conceptual and historiographical relationship between moderation and enlightenment.
  • Religious moderation, toleration and reformism in eighteenth-century Europe.
  • Prudence, self-restraint and civility in eighteenth-century commercial society.
  • Political moderation, pragmatism and bipartisanship before, and during, the French Revolution.
  • Frameworks of governance, discipline and control in eighteenth-century Europe.

It is anticipated that this will be a real-world conference taking place in Newcastle, UK. Funding is available to contribute to costs of travel and accommodation for participants. Participants will be invited to submit their contributions for consideration for inclusion in a special issue of the journal History of European Ideas.

Please submit short abstracts (150 words) by 30th September 2021, and any other queries, to  

Special Issue: ‘Recovering Moderation’ in The European Legacy

Along with Aurelian Craiutu (Indiana University, Bloomington, USA) and Alexander Smith (University of Warwick, UK) I am co-editing a special themed issue of The European Legacy, titled Recovering Moderation.

We are inviting contributions dedicated to the study of moderation, broadly understood. Papers should be 8,000-10,000 words in length, and submitted to the guest editors by 30th September 2021. Further details below.

Recovering Moderation

The last two decades have witnessed increasing political fragmentation and polarization that have challenged the principles of an open society in the West. Amidst concerns about political extremism, religious fanaticism, populist challenges to democracy, and, arguably, the crisis of liberalism in Europe and North America, moderation has, in some quarters, been invoked as a panacea for overcoming polarisation through a politics of compassion and compromise. At the same time, in other quarters, moderates have been charged with indecision and indifference, while their alleged pragmatism has been equated with a cowardly defence of the status quo.

In this context, moderation is a concept which needs to be better understood. On the one hand, it has its own genealogy and tradition that should be unpacked and explored in all their complexity. At the same time, moderation is a historical concept, whose relationship with a wider family of terms – temperance, prudence, toleration, self-restraint, fanaticism, radicalism, or extremism – is highly context specific. Moderation has been invoked and deployed rhetorically by different thinkers from across the political spectrum and from various intellectual quarters. But it is also an applied, practical and not exclusively political virtue, the substance of which can sometimes elude theoretical studies.

Making sense of moderation requires a historical sensibility as well as perspectives from a range of disciplines. To this end, this special issue of The European Legacy proposes a critical and interdisciplinary study of the history of moderation in Europe and the West. It invites intellectual historians, political theorists, philosophers, sociologists, and students of religion to explore and discuss the emergence of modern ideas about moderation in early modern Europe, their use and abuse in the modern West, and their continued salience in the twenty-first century.

This issue is designed to spark a timely debate about the nature and contemporary relevance of moderation through the lens of its gestation in Western modernity. Moderation implies an original political and philosophical vision which the articles in this special issue will bring to light. We seek to respond to the claim that moderation represents a weak centrism, a third-way compromise, or a justification of existing hierarchies, as well as to the claim that it is an ineffective alternative to fanaticism, radicalism and zealotry.

We are looking for papers that examine moderation as a social practice, as an intellectual sensibility, as well as a political way of life, and hope to illuminate the moral, epistemological and cultural complex which underpins contemporary views of moderation in the West. The articles selected for this special issue will examine several ‘faces’ of moderation that need to be understood in dialogue with one another, as well as in dialogue with conventional political ideas of moderation as anti-extremism or as a position in party politics.

In sum, recovering moderation promises to enhance our understanding of liberal democracy, how it works as well as how it fails. We believe that a sustained engagement with the history of moderation can make us intellectually richer, culturally more open, and politically more tolerant.

We invite submissions from scholars working in disciplines across the humanities and social sciences. Submissions could address various aspects of moderation, including but not limited to:

  • The history of moderation in European history from 1500s to the present
  • The relationship between religion and moderation
  • The relationship between moderation and democracy
  • The limits and critics of moderation
  • Moderation and the rise of political ideologies (liberalism, conservatism, social-democracy, etc.)


Length: 8,000-10,000 words (including Endnotes and Bibliography)

Deadline for submissions: September 30, 2021.

Manuscripts, typed double-spaced, should be submitted to the three Guest Editors as e-mail attachments (with “For special issue on moderation” in the subject line). The author’s full address should be supplied in the e-mail message. Each submission should have an abstract and a list of key words. Authors may wish to submit an abstract for their paper to the editors in the first instance, or to discuss their prospective submission with the editors beforehand. Please follow the Instructions for Authors on the journal’s website when preparing your paper:…

After an initial editorial screening, articles and reviews accepted for consideration will undergo a rigorous evaluation by the guest editors. Please allow approx. 3-4 months for the review process and editorial decisions. Receipt of materials will be confirmed by email.

We look forward to your submissions!

Nicholas Mithen,

Aurelian Craiutu,

Alexander Smith,