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Selling old ideas in the Enlightenment: the 'imagined community of readers

Event type
Society, Culture & Belief, 1500-1800
Event dates
, 5:30PM - 7:30PM
Online- via Zoom
Thomas Munck (University of Glasgow)
Email only

This paper will examine ways in which new research techniques in the history of print can help explain patterns of dissemination of information and ideas across Europe from the later seventeenth century to the French Revolution. I will explore what I call the "imagined community of readers"  -  readers who were no longer linked to the older republic of letters, did not know each other personally, and were not known to those who were authoring texts and feeding the growing market for print. The paper will examine the significance of print as the only reliable method of communication across space and time: how texts were distributed, reprinted, pirated, and not least, translated. 'Cultural translation' is now a well established term (Peter Burke; see also my _Conflict and Enlightenment_, published late 2019), but as historians we need to understand the precise context in which it worked. Detailed bibliographical data is crucial, but so is an awareness of research methods in material culture that might tell us about growing social diversity amongst readers, as set against persistent market limitations. Case-studies developed for this paper will include John Milton, Beccaria, and Richard Price.

All welcome. This event is free but booking is required.