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Science and Reading in the Eighteenth Century

The Hardwicke Circle and the Royal Society, 1740–1766

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 February 2023

Markman Ellis
Queen Mary University of London


Science and Reading in the Eighteenth Century studies the reading habits of a group of historians and science administrators known as the Hardwicke Circle. The research is based on an analysis of the reading recorded in the 'Weekly Letter', an unpublished private correspondence written from 1741 to 1766 between Thomas Birch (1705–1766), Secretary of the Royal Society, and Philip Yorke (1720–1790), later second earl of Hardwicke. Birch and Yorke were omnivorous, voracious, and active readers. The analysis uses the Weekly Letter to quantify the texts with which they engaged, and explores the role of reading in their intellectual life. The research argues that this evidence shows that, in the early 1750s, the Hardwicke Circle pivoted from a focus on early-modern British history to a new concern with the reform and renovation of British intellectual institutions, especially the Royal Society.
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Online ISBN: 9781009217217
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication: 23 February 2023

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Science and Reading in the Eighteenth Century
  • Markman Ellis, Queen Mary University of London
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Science and Reading in the Eighteenth Century
  • Markman Ellis, Queen Mary University of London
  • Online ISBN: 9781009217217
Available formats