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Paul A. London: I. There has been quite a lot of research on the scientific culture of the English provinces in the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, and the time may be right for a summing-up. In the last couple of decades, the pioneering work of Roy Porter, Margaret Jacob, and Larry Stewart has inspired several local studies. A fair amount has now been learned about institutions in such commercial centres as Manchester and Birmingham, about the work of itinerant lecturers in towns like Bath and Norwich, about the scientific contents of periodicals and newspapers, and about the trade in scientific instruments.

Instead, he covers fairly concrete practices, like domestic architecture, the layout of gardens, and urban planning. Elliott succeeds in showing how his chosen sites were connected to wider networks through which printed materials, instruments, and specimens were circulated.

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Discussing the household as a place of scientific activity, he mentions books that taught botany, meteorology, and chemistry to women and children. He shows how natural history collections in private houses evolved into public museums in Lichfield and Darlington. He tells of itinerant lecturers who brought their shows into middle-class homes, and of the learned societies in towns like Spalding, Derby, and Birmingham that began as domestic gatherings. He was a major figure in the Scottish Enlightenment.


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The outcomes of the Enlightenment were thus far-reaching and, indeed, revolutionary. Secular science and invention, fertilised by a spirit of enquiry and discovery, also became the hallmark of modern society, which in turn propelled the pace of 18th-century industrialisation and economic growth. Individualism — the personal freedoms celebrated by Locke, Hume, Adam Smith , Voltaire and Kant — became part of the web of modern society that trickled down into 19th-century notions of independence, self-help and liberalism.

Representative government on behalf of the people was enshrined in new constitutional arrangements, characterised by the slow march towards universal suffrage in the s. Evidence of the Enlightenment thus remains with us today: in our notions of free speech, our secular yet religiously tolerant societies, in science, the arts and literature: all legacies of a profound movement for change that transformed the nature of society forever. Dr Matthew White is Research Fellow in History at the University of Hertfordshire where he specialises in the social history of London during the 18th and 19th centuries.

His most recently published work has looked at changing modes of public justice in the 18th and 19th centuries with particular reference to the part played by crowds at executions and other judicial punishments.


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  8. The text in this article is available under the Creative Commons License. The Enlightenment. The Enlightenment's emphasis on reason shaped philosophical, political and scientific discourse from the late 17th to the early 19th century. Matthew White traces the Enlightenment back to its roots in the aftermath of the Civil War, and forward to its effects on the present day. The Bill of Rights The Bill of Rights, signed by William and Mary in February , stated that it was illegal for the Crown to suspend or dispense with the law, to levy money without parliamentary assent, or to raise an army in peacetime, and insisted on due process in criminal trials.

    Scientific revolution These new enlightened views of the world were also encapsulated in the explosion of scientific endeavour that occurred during the 18th century. Copernicus' celestial spheres First edition of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres , in which Copernicus argued that the positions of the stars and planetary orbits could be better explained by the sun being at the centre of the universe with the planets rotating around it in a circular motion, as shown in this iconic diagram. Galileo's sunspot letters These letters record astronomical observations made by the Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei in Ephraim Chambers's Cyclopaedia , Encyclopaedias, grammars and dictionaries became something of a craze in this period, helping to demystify the world in empirical terms.

    Secularisation and the impact on religion Religion and personal faith were also subject to the tides of reason evident during the 18th century.

    The Enlightenment and Religion, Knowledge and Pedagogies in Europe

    An enquiry into the nature of the human soul The author, Andrew Baxter argues that all matter is inherently inactive, and that the soul and an omnipotent divine spirit are the animating principles of all life. Newspaper report of the Gordon riots, The Gordon Riots of June were in response to legislation passed permitting Catholics greater freedom in society such as being allowed to join the Army. Four Dissertations by Enlightenment philosopher David Hume David Hume was an 18th-century Scottish philosopher, known for his empiricism and scepticism.

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