History seminars at the IHR

Education in the Long 18th Century

Convenors: Michèle Cohen (RAIUL and IOE), Mary Clare Martin (Greenwich), Mark Burden (Oxford)  

Venue: John S Cohen Room 203, 2nd floor, IHR, North block, Senate House

Time: Saturday 2.00-4.00pm

We aim to provide a relaxed forum for conversation and debate on all aspects of research into education during the long eighteenth century. To this end, we will explore a variety of modes of presentation as starting point for discussion and debate, from reading group led by an invited speaker, to papers and panels.

We usually continue the conversation over tea and cakes afterwards.

We expect contributions to be last between 25 to 40 minutes maximum, to allow for discussion, and we welcome papers-in-progress from all, especially graduate students who would like to air and share ideas. Most of all, we aim to provide a space for friendly and supportive discussion where everyone feels they can participate, and bring together researchers on eighteenth-century education dispersed throughout the British Isles and beyond.

Summer Term 2016
DateSeminar details
23 April "Passionate, dedicated and loyal": characteristics of the leaders of early Mechanics' Institutes in south-east England, 1825-1840

Jana Sims (Independent Scholar)

The London Mechanics’ Institute was established in 1823 to provide part-time tuition for working mechanics in the science and arts of their trades and heralded the rapid spread of such institutions throughout the country. The leaders of many of these institutes in the south-east were young working men in their twenties, often from non-conformist, particularly Unitarian and Quaker backgrounds, who were ardent in their quest for self-improvement. Adult education promised heightened knowledge, an end to ignorance and a better world.
This paper shows how the determined commitment and caring management of the pioneers of Portsmouth, Lewes, Newport (IOW), and Guildford Mechanics’ Institutes enabled these societies to endure for many decades. Their prudent financial management avoided the debts which caused the demise of so many early institutes. Cultivating favourable public relations in their localities and advertising their lectures and social occasions in the local newspapers gave these successful institutions a vibrancy in their community and a growing sense of civic pride. Leading members gave lectures in their field of expertise at their own institute and as visiting speakers at neighbouring institutions, thereby creating lasting networks of the societies.

21 May Natural graces, natural genius: gender and 'accomplishments' in the long eighteenth century

Michèle Cohen  (UCL Institute of Education)

In eighteenth-century England, upper class education included not just the learning of virtue and instruction in different subjects but social learning and accomplishments. In the historiography, accomplishments are a signifier for the parlous state of women’s education, and male accomplishments have been ignored altogether, by not being treated as accomplishments. Yet, both men and women learned the ‘core’ accomplishments: music,  dance, drawing, singing and French. In this paper, I examine the cultural work ‘accomplishments’ performed for both males and females in eighteenth-century England, and argue that they played a key role in creating and maintaining social distinctions.