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In 1775, Edmund Rack, a sober Quaker and former Essex shopkeeper, emigrated to Bath at age 40. Why he chose Bath has been a mystery. Yet by 1779, Rack had founded an Agricultural and a Philosophical Society dedicated to scientific experiments, with members including Joseph Priestley and the astronomer, Willam Herschel. Why were these institutions founded in a spa-town dedicated to pleasure?  And why did prominent scientists support his goal of becoming Bath’s master of knowledge?

By framing Rack’s life in the new field of the History of Knowledge, I show how he fulfilled his mission to produce and circulate information according to a strategic plan. New sources reveal his transnational networks of traders, abolitionists, preachers, future scientists, international societies, and London’s authors and publishers at a time of socio-economic change. As we follow Rack’s activities as an entrepreneurial, cultural broker, we observe Bath anew in its local, national, and global contexts and ask new questions about its impact on eighteenth-century society.


All welcome. This event is free to attend, but advance registration is required.


This will be a ‘hybrid’ seminar with a limited number of places available in person and a larger number of bookings for online attendance via Zoom. Those attending in person are asked to bring a Wi-Fi enabled laptop, tablet or phone.


The session will start at the slightly later time of 17:30.