This book sets out to explain how - in a particular provincial context - the widespread public consumption of science underpinned a very considerable expansion of know-how or technological capability. In other words, it explains how conditions conducive to 'Industrial Enlightenment' came into being. Industrial Enlightenment appears to fit best as a characterisation of what was taking place in eighteenth-century Britain. Diffusing knowledge among savants was not at all the same as embedding it in technological or industrial processes. In the matter of application as opposed to dissemination, Europe's science cultures are revealed as very far from being evenly permeable, or receptive. The book explores whether the religious complexion of Birmingham and the West Midlands, and more especially the strength of protestant Nonconformity, might explain the precocious development of conditions favourable to Industrial Enlightenment across the region. It also focuses on the international ramifications of the knowledge economy, and the very serious dislocation that it suffered at the century's end as a consequence of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Whilst these late-century interruptions to the free flow of knowledge and technical know-how served mainly to thrust English provincial science in an ever more utilitarian direction, they signally retarded developments on the Continent. As a result, overseas visitors arriving in Birmingham and Soho after the signing of the peace treaties of 1814-15 were dismayed to discover that they faced a very considerable knowledge and know-how deficit.
This book offers a critical survey of religious change and its causes in eighteenth-century Europe, and constitutes a challenge to the accepted views in traditional Enlightenment studies. Focusing on Enlightenment Italy, France and England, it illustrates how the canonical view of eighteenth-century religious change has in reality been constructed upon scant evidence and assumption, in particular the idea that the thought of the enlightened led to modernity. For, despite a lack of evidence, one of the fundamental assumptions of Enlightenment studies has been the assertion that there was a vibrant Deist movement which formed the “intellectual solvent” of the eighteenth century. The central claim of this book is that the immense ideological appeal of the traditional birth-of-modernity myth has meant that the actual lack of Deists has been glossed over, and a quite misleading historical view has become entrenched.
Enlightenment and Dissent
he overview of eighteenth-century Europe’s uneven science cultures which brought the argument in the last chapter to a close
begs an obvious question which now needs to be tackled. How should
we construe the relationship between science and religion? Voltaire’s
‘Ecrasez-l’infâme’1 offers a point of departure, but it only requires a
moment’s reﬂection to realise that his impatient condemnation of
intolerant Roman Catholicism as a barrier to human progress leads
nowhere. Many of the advances registered in Europe during the
The myth of Enlightenment deism
The myth of
The myth of the deist movement
The first hint of deism in the historical record is to be found in
sixteenth-century Lyon. In 1563 Pierre Viret, a close colleague of
the Protestant reformer Calvin, wrote the Instruction Chrétienne, in
which he described various freethinkers who needed to be combated. Amongst them Viret mentioned those ‘qui s’appelent déistes,
d’un mot tout nouveau’ (‘who call themselves deists, a completely
new word’) and his description of them heavily emphasized their
This book explores at length the French and English Catholic literary revivals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These parallel but mostly independent movements include writers such as Charles Péguy, Paul Claudel, J. K. Huysmans, Gerard Manley Hopkins, G. K. Chesterton and Lionel Johnson. Rejecting critical approaches that tend to treat Catholic writings as exotic marginalia, the book makes extensive use of secularisation theory to confront these Catholic writings with the preoccupations of secularism and modernity. It compares individual and societal secularisation in France and England and examines how French and English Catholic writers understood and contested secular mores, ideologies and praxis, in the individual, societal and religious domains. The book also addresses the extent to which some Catholic writers succumbed to the seduction of secular instincts, even paradoxically in themes that are considered to be emblematic of Catholic literature. Its breadth will make it a useful guide for students wishing to become familiar with a wide range of such writings in France and England during this period.
– would mark a difﬁcult passage in Soho’s fortunes.
But Boulton’s candid self-appraisal also acknowledged that he and
his fellow Birmingham manufacturers were caught up in a more farreaching adjustment that can be described as a retreat from some of
the core cultural values associated with the English Enlightenment.
Most of the output of the Soho Manufactory had been ornamental,
in fact. As such it signalled Matthew Boulton’s life-style ambition to identify with the polite and cosmopolitan culture of the second half of the
eighteenth century, and to gather around him
See Miller, Discovering Water, chapter 1.
See above p. 1.
The science and technology interface
industry. Our focus switches to the process of application, therefore;
that is to say, the manner in which bodies of useful knowledge were
generated and fashioned into effective technologies. Even researchers
who admit the connection between science and technology (some do
not) ﬁnd it difﬁcult to be explicit about this process – hence the room
for a case-study enquiry. The Industrial Enlightenment thesis outlined
brieﬂy in Chapter 1 must be our starting
Can thy streams / Of philosophic sulphur dim the blaze / Of light celestial?’
E. Sparrow, Secret Service: British Agents in France, 1792–1815 (Woodbridge:
Boydell, 1999), p. xi.
The abolition by the French National Convention of all learned
academies, including the Académie des Sciences, in the summer of 1793
administered a swift corrective to Priestley’s conﬁdence. Since the
sciences were tainted with aristocracy, the new republic could manage
very well without them – or so the académiciens were informed
The eighteenth century has many names: the Age of the Old Regime, the Age of Enlightenment, the Age of Democratic Revolution, the Age of Cosmopolitanism … It is rarely called the Age of Upheaval, although it is an apt label: The eighteenth century began with a wave of great wars. These wars stimulated the emergence of the modern state. The growth of the state was one of the characteristic features of the century. Debates about the nature of states and about their interrelations mark the political thought of the age.
The evolving institutions of
The Enlightenment and modernity
The rationale of this book
In historical studies and indeed most fields of the humanities, the
terms modernity and Enlightenment are so frequently linked that
either term almost automatically evokes the other. It has become an
accepted commonplace, part of the historical canon, that modernity
began in the Enlightenment. This begs the obvious but yet problematic question: what was the general character of the intellectual
phenomenon we term the Enlightenment?
Since the end of the 1960