Foundation of Chair of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, 1760

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With the Creation of the Chair of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in 1760 began the teaching of English Literature at Edinburgh University. At over 250 years old, Edinburgh University has the longest established English Department in the world.

On 11 December 1759, Dr Hugh Blair (1718-1800), began to read lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres within the walls of Edinburgh University with the consent of the Senatus Academicus and the Town Council. The following year, on 27 June 1760, the patrons of Edinburgh University appointed him Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres but allotted him no salary for the post. His courses, however, proved so popular that an application was made to the Crown to endow the Chair. On 21 July 1762, George III granted a commission to Blair as Regius Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres with a salary of £70 per annum.

Before Blair's appointment, the teaching of Rhetoric had been the province of the Professor of Logic and Metaphysics. With the creation of the new chair, however it was transformed into a systematic course of lectures on British literature.

Other University Events in 1760


  • Alexander Bower, The History of the University of Edinburgh. 3 vols. Edinburgh, 1817-1830.
  • Sir Alexander Grant, The Story of the University of Edinburgh during its First Three Hundred Years, 2 vols (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1884)