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The British Enlightenment and Scientific Culture.

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Presentation on theme: "The British Enlightenment and Scientific Culture."— Presentation transcript:

1 The British Enlightenment and Scientific Culture

2 The Legacy of the Enlightenment Liberalism Free market Natural rights Science Ideas about the league of nations Questioning the enlightenment –Romanticism –Conservatism –gender

3 Is Enlightenment a useful term? Ignores earlier change (Renaissance and Reformation) Never monolithic Tensions within ranks of the enlightened, across time, space and class Can appear very abstract J.C.D.Clark emphasises continuity of older attitudes Is it revolutionary? Does GB Enlightenment validate or subvert the established order? Compatible with, even generated by, Whig culture? We have already examined some of its dimensions – politics, religion, ideological division over rights and revolution, wealth creation, print culture

4 The Enlightenment message Reason and experiment Progress towards the good life Reassessment of relationships between –Man and God: superstition; prejudice; toleration; deism (Toland) and atheism; Bible (Thomas Woolston, Six Discourses 1727-30); Calvinism; rational religion; priestcraft; miracles –People and rulers; slavery and liberty, the role of the public; balanced constitution; the revolution of 1689; censorship –Wealth and luxury –Men and women; sexual morality –Man and man: how to talk to each other? –Europe and the wider world

5 The pursuit of knowledge The dissemination of knowledge: print, coffee houses, museums and collections, libraries, conversation Understanding the natural world – the body, the natural world, the planetary system.


7 The British Enlightenment Earlier than other European countries? –1689 revolution –John Locke: –John Toland –Isaac Newton Scottish and/or English Enlightenment? Edinburgh [David Hume, Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith]; London; or the provinces? Voltaire’s Lettres Philosophique ou Lettres Anglaises (1733) looked to GB; The Enclyclopédie originated in scheme to translate Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopedia (1728) Paine and the debate about enlightenment


9 A sociable, provincial and practical enlightenment –2000 clubs in early C18th, –Whole variety of different reasons: social; artistic (Society of Dilletante; Dr Johnson’s Literary Club); debating (Robin Hood Society); politics (eg Sons of Freedom; the Antigallicans); science –Radical clubs –Masonic societies. Freemasonry as GB invention, modelled as microcosm of commonwealth fostering brotherhood, benevolence, conviviality, liberty, a measure of egalitarianism; aimed at artisans. 1717 formation of the Grand Lodge of England; 52 lodges in GB alone by 1725, nearly 300 by 1768


11 Spalding Gentlemen’s society 1712 – scientific and literary society Proposals for establishing a Society of Gentlemen for the supporting mutual benevolence, and their improvements in the liberal sciences and polite learning. That the persons who sign these proposals, and none other be esteemed of the Society. That they choose a president monthly, to moderate in all disputes, and read all papers whatsoever aloud. That they meet every Monday at Mr. Younger’s coffee-house in Spalding, at two in the afternoon, from September to May, and in other months at four, unless detained by business of moment or indisposition, under pain of forfeiting twopence a time for a fund for books etc., except those who live three miles off from Spalding. That he who is absent four Mondays together shall on the fifth communicate to the Society something new or curious, with an excuse for absenting himself, upon pain of being struck out of this establishment, if the majority of gentlemen then present vote it so; or pay sixpence, to be put to a fund to buy books etc. November 3 1712. We do approve of these proposals and agree to observe them as members of this society

12 The Lunar Society in Birmingham Group of friends; began to meet formally 1775 every month on Sunday nearest full moon Joseph Priestley Josiah Wedgwood Erasmus Darwin Matthew Boulton James Watt http://www.revolution me.stm

13 Soho House, venue of the Lunar Society

14 Erasmus Darwin 1731-1802 Physician, poet, botanist and campaigner Fellow of the Royal Society 1757; formed one of the first formal theories of evolution in Zoonomia (1794-6), and versified them in the Temple of Nature (posthumous); motto ‘everything from shells’; described photosynthesis; ‘A fool, you know, is a man who never tried an experiment in his life’ Deist: ‘That there exists a superior Ens Entium, which formed these wonderful creatures is mathematical demonstration. That HE influences things by a particular providence is not so evident. The probability, according to my notion, is against it, since general laws seem sufficient for that end’ (1754) Designer of carriages to take him on medical rounds; designed a ‘speaking machine’ with a wooden mouth and leather lips, capable of producing sounds p, b, m and a so well ‘as to deceive all who heard it unseen, when it pronounced the words mama, papa, map and pam’; mechanical copier of hand-writing Anti-slavery

15 Joseph Priestley experimenter with electricity (friend of Benjamin Franklin; author of work on electricity in 1767) and then with air and gases (Discoverer of carbonisation 1773 and identifier of oxygen in 1774 and amonia) Dissenting minister, having studied at Nonconformist academy at Daventry; Unitarian (anti-trinitarian); ‘natural philosophy’ Political radical – anti-slavery (part of deputation welcoming Equiano when he came to speak in Bham in 1789; founding member of the Constitutional Society. His house (Fair Hill, in Bham) was burnt in ‘Church and King’ riot 1791 and emigrated to Pennsylvania


17 Josiah Wedgwood 1730-1795 Born into family of potters; 1769 opened his own factory at Etruria, near Stoke on Trent Experimenter and refiner and esp interested in properties of minerals and combustion processes eg Barium Sulphate produced Jasper in 1773 (Jasperware: durable, unglazed, usually blue – though here a yellow); 1783 Fellow of the Royal Society – invented pyrometer to measure oven temperatures Keen interest in improving transport (canal and roads) I776 pro-American; involved in anti- slavery movement: committee member of Society for the Suppression of the Slave Trade. ‘This will be an epoch before unknown to the World, and …the subject of freedom will be more canvassed and better understood in the enlightened nations’ [letter to Franklin, 1787] Daughter married son of Erasmus Darwin, and was mother of Charles.

18 Matthew Boulton 1728-1809 Son of Birmingham metal toy manufacturer 1762 established Soho factory with partner John Fothergill producing steel buttons and reproductions of oil paintings; 1767 met Watt, when needing more power, and Watt used Soho for experiments with steam- engine; 1775 partnership; Arkwright pioneered its use in cotton mills; 1788 began coining for East India Company and Sierra Leone; Factory, specialised labour; but also introduced early social insurance scheme for his workers More conservative politics; anti- American; but greeted Equiano

19 James Watt 1736-1819 Scot with little formal education; instrument maker Asked to repair early steam engine; experimented with improving it by adding separate condenser; used initially in Cornish tin and copper mines to pump water; then spinning. 1766 surveyor of canal route from Forth to Clyde; went to London to lobby for it and stopped in Birmingham on return, staying with Darwin and went round Soho. Fellow of the Royal Society and interested, like Priestley, in composition of water – Priestley mixed Hydrogen and Oxygen; the identification was in part the result of the exchange between them (Darwin had started the discussion)

20 Medicine: institutions Foundation of hospitals: Westminster 1720, Guy’s 1724, St George’s 1733, The London 1740, the Middlesex 1743 Priestley founded Leeds Infirmary. 1784 the generosity of donors proved that ‘the charity of Mankind … has been progressive and reflects peculiar Lustre on the present period’ Specialist ones. The Foundling Hospital. Fundraising via art and music (Hogarth and Handel).

21 Inoculation and vacination Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762): In 1717 Lady Montague arrived with her husband, the British ambassador, at the court of the Ottoman Empire. she noted that the local practice of deliberately stimulating a mild form of the disease through inoculation conferred immunity. She had the procedure performed on both her children. By the end of the eighteenth century, the English physician Edward Jenner was able to cultivate a serum in cattle, which, when used in human vaccination, eventually led to the worldwide eradication of the illness.

22 A consultation – 1762 Hoare’s picture shows Bath’s (1738) Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Disease’s two physicians and patients with arthritis, palsy and skin disease


24 Medical developments Understanding the human body: illness as integral to the body or external? The mechanical body The medical market and drugs Print culture and self-help books: Cheyne, The English Malady (1733); Buchan Domestic Medicine (1769); Beddoes, Consideration on the Medical Use of Factitious Airs (1794) The danger of hypochondria


26 Understanding the mind and personality The study of man and mind Locke’s tabula rasa; the self created by senses; no integral self? Disguise and masquerade. Mandeville: man’s appetites and vices, man as self- interested; but all that was beneficial – greed, lust, vanity and ambition could produce public good Hume: ‘mankind are so much the same, in all times and places’ – constant principles of human nature that were discoverable; but the self was not a constant unity and was highly contingent Romantic sincerity? Madness

27 Public lectures In 1739 the following advertisement was placed in the Norfolk Gazette by John Barker, surgeon and brewer: And for the further diversion of the gentlemen and ladies [attending the race meeting at New Buckenham, Norfolk], between the hours of three and four a clock in the afternoon, will be performed many of the philosophical experiments that were performed in Gresham College in the Time of the famous MR BOYLE; and likewise will be shewn many experiments that are now performed by the ingenious Mons. Desaguiliers. The next day, at the Assembly, will be shewn the same Experiments'. In 1819 John Griscom noted that 'there is scarcely a town of considerable note in Great Britain, which is not sometimes visited by these travelling lecturers, who, by means of portable apparatus, and a facility in communicating instruction, impart the benefits of useful knowledge to hundreds and thousands who might otherwise remain destitute of its advantages. The multiplication of the means of gaining information, even in those branches of instruction which a few years ago were confined to colleges and universities, is a conspicuous feature of the present day'.

28 Public Lectures (1809)

29 Chemical lectures 1810

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