Bernard Lightman et Richard England, “The Metaphysical Society and the End of Metaphysics” (6 mai)

Jeudi 6 mai 2021 à  17 h : Bernard Lightman (York University) et Richard England (Eastern Illinois University), “The Metaphysical Society and the End of Metaphysics”

The Metaphysical Society was a unique London debating club that lasted for eleven years, from 1869 to 1880.  The debaters came from every sphere of intellectual endeavor, from politics and religion, to science and literature. The roster of members included many of the English intellectual superstars of the period, such as the liberal politician William Gladstone, the biologist T. H. Huxley, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Henry Edward Manning, and the Poet Laureate Alfred Tennyson. During the period when the Metaphysical Society held its meetings there were questions being raised about the future of the study of metaphysics.  So why did members of the Society decide to name their debating club the Metaphysical Society?  This paper will explore how the concept of metaphysics was understood by the members of the society during the 1870’s.  It became an issue of contention within the society, as Christian intellectuals attempted to defend the validity of metaphysics from the criticisms of fellow members who questioned the existence of such a discipline, and ironically, the raison d’être of the society itself.


Bernard Lightman is Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities Department at York University, and Past President of the History of Science Society.   
Richard England  is Dean of the Pine Honors College and professor of philosophy at Eastern Illinois University. 

– Catherine Marshall, Bernard Lightman & Richard England (eds), The Papers of the Metaphysical Society (1869-1880), Oxford, Oxford, University Press, 2015.
– Catherine Marshall, Bernard Lightman and Richard England (eds), The Metaphysical Society (1869-1880): Intellectual Life in Mid-Victorian England, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2019. 

Participer à la réunion Zoom : lien habituel, disponible auprès d’Emmanuelle de Champs

Barbara Bombi, « Diplomatic communication: how to convey messages at the papal curia between the 13th and 14th century » (15 avril)

Jeudi 15 avril 2021, 17h : Barbara Bombi (Kent), « Diplomatic communication: how to convey messages at the papal curia between the 13th and 14th century »

La communication de Barbara Bombi portera sur les pratiques diplomatiques et administratives de la fin du Moyen Âge et en particulier sur l’acheminement des messages depuis l’Angleterre vers la Curie pontificale au tournant des XIIIe et XIVe siècles. Se fondant sur les résultats de son étude récente des relations entre l’Angleterre et la papauté pendant la première phase de la guerre de Cent ans (1337-1360), Barbara Bombi traitera de la communication écrite, de « l’auralité » pratique, de l’oralité et des procédures cérémonielles. Trois avenues en particulier seront explorées: 1) comment les pratiques administratives furent-elles forgées et utilisées dans le discours diplomatique anglo-papal dans la première moitié du XIVe siècle ? 2) Ces pratiques se développèrent-elles en raison de développements parallèles mais autonomes dans différentes régions, ou à la suite d’influences mutuelles? 3) À qui doit-on l’essor et l’application des pratiques administratives?

Barbara Bombi est professeur d’histoire médiévale à l’Université du Kent. Spécialiste d’histoire ecclésiastique et religieuse, elle est l’auteur de Anglo-Papal Relations in the Early Fourteenth Century: A Study in Medieval Diplomacy (Oxford, 2019), Oliviero di Colonia, I Cristiani e il favoloso Egitto. Scontri e incontri durante la V crociata (Milan, 2009), Il registro di Andrea Sapiti, procuratore fiorentino presso la curia papale nei primi decenni del XIV secolo (Rome, 2007), Novella plantatio fidei. Missione e crociata nel nord europa tra la fine del XII e i primi decenni del XIII secolo (Rome, 2007).


Lien Zoom habituel, disponible sur simple demande auprès de Frédérique Lachaud

Gareth Curless, “Labour, Decolonization and Class: Re-Making Colonial Workers at the End of the British Empire” (08/04)

Jeudi 8 avril 2021 à  17 h : Gareth Curless (University of Exeter), “Labour, Decolonization and Class: Re-Making Colonial Workers at the End of the British Empire”

The strikes and labour riots that swept through the empire during the late 1930s are widely regarded as a watershed moment in the history of British imperialism. According to conventional histories, the unrest was a catalyst for a major reorientation of not just colonial labour policy but colonial attitudes towards social and economic development in the empire. Gareth Curless reconsiders this established narrative, using comparative case studies from Singapore, British Guiana and the Gold Coast.

While accepting that colonial states intervened more directly in the social and economic spheres of colonial rule after the late 1930s, Gareth Curless argues that these policies emerged out of pre-existing policies and debates in both London and the colonies, which in some instances can be traced back to the late 19th century; as the civilising mission gave way to the language of modernisation, colonial labour regimes continued to be concerned with the control, regulation and reproduction of African and Asian workers. Curless shows that the power of the colonial state was not absolute, however, considering African and Asian workers who frequently practiced more subterranean or `everyday’ forms of resistance such as absenteeism, industrial sabotage, theft and go-slow protests. He emphasises the role of class and `ordinary’ Africans and Asians, focusing on the emergence of class identity and consciousness as a result of struggles between colonial workers and employers and the state.


Participer à la réunion Zoom : 
Lien habituel, disponible auprès de Yann Béliard

Anna Marie Roos, “The First Egyptian Society (1741-43): The Royal Society, natural philosophy, and antiquarianism” (1er avr.)

Jeudi 1er avril à 17h : Anna Marie Roos (University of Lincoln), “The First Egyptian Society (1741-43): The Royal Society, natural philosophy, and antiquarianism”


The Egyptian Society (1741-43), the first of its kind, was created in Georgian England for the purpose of ‘promoting and preserving Egyptian and other antient learning’. Its antiquarian members either travelled to the Land of the Pharaohs as part of their Grand Tour, or were simply interested in Egypt’s material culture. As Mark Thomas Young (Centaurus, 2017) has indicated, fellows of the early Royal Society attended experimental demonstrations sometimes to produce effects for themselves, but more often to access ‘empirical material from which causal and axiomatic principles could be derived through discursive practice’. At society meetings, members could access this material in a variety of ways; experimental demonstrations existed alongside the reading of experimental reports, accounts of lay empirical practices and travellers’ reports’. The Egyptian Society fellows followed the same methodology, to discover principles of sociocultural and religious practices in Egypt, as well as to provide ‘object biographies’ of artefacts that belonged to members that they examined with speculations on manufacture and use.  I will show that the Egyptian Society approach to textual sources and artefacts was informed by the empiricism of the Royal Society, a form of what I term ‘scientific antiquarianism’. 


Anna Marie Roos is a Professor of the history of science and medicine at the University of Lincoln. She studies the early Royal Society, as well as natural history, chemistry, and medicine in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She is Editor of Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science. She has published The Salt of the Earth: Natural Philosophy, Medicine and Chymistry in England, 1650-1750 (Brill, 2007), Web of Nature: Martin Lister (1639-1712), the First Arachnologist (Brill, 2011), Martin Lister and His Remarkable Daughters. The Art of Science in the Seventeenth Century (Bodleian Library, 2018), and Goldfish (Reaktion Books, 2019). Her latest book, Martin Folkes (1690-1754). Newtonian, Antiquary, Connoisseur, is due in April 2021 with Oxford University Press.


Participer à la réunion Zoom : lien habituel, disponible auprès de Sandrine Parageau


Julian Pooley, “Printing the Past: Discovering the Archive of the Nichols family of printers, antiquaries and editors of the Gentleman’s Magazine,1777-1873” (25 mars)

Thursday March 25, 2021 at 5 p.m. : Julian Pooley (University of Leicester) “Printing the Past: Discovering the Archive of the Nichols family of printers, antiquaries and editors of the Gentleman’s Magazine,1777-1873”.


This paper tells the story of how the purchase of an anonymous pocket diary in a London bookshop, led me to discover extensive and previously unknown archives of John Nichols (1745-1826) and his family of printers, antiquaries and editors of the Gentleman’s Magazine.  Nichols was one of Georgian London’s most prominent printers, contracted to print for Parliament, the Royal Society and Society of Antiquaries.  He was also a literary biographer, chronicling the book trade and its customers over the long-eighteenth century; a pioneer of Renaissance culture through his Progresses of Queen Elizabeth and a leading antiquary whose History and Antiquities of the Town and County of Leicester 4 vols (1795-1815) transformed the way that English local history was written and illustrated.  The vast archive of family and business papers which he and his successors accumulated inspired his granddaughter to form her own collection of autograph letters, augmented by exchange with other collectors and by purchases in the London and Paris salerooms.  This internationally significant collection is now part of the 20,000 Nichols papers calendared and accessible via the Nichols Archive Database.  This paper will explore the value of the archive for studying the career of John Nichols, his editorship of the Gentleman’s Magazine and his achievements as a literary biographer and antiquary. It will also highlight some of the many French historical documents preserved in this archive.


Julian Pooley F.S.A. is Hon. Visiting Fellow of the Centre for English Local History at the University of Leicester and Public Services and Engagement Manager at Surrey History Centre, Woking.


Nichols Archive Project


Séance sur Zoom, lien habituel, disponible auprès de Stéphane Jettot


Philippa Levine, “ ‘When I feel very near God, I always feel such a need to undress’: Religion, Nakedness and the Body Divine” (18 mars)

Jeudi 18 mars à 17h : Philippa Levine (Austin / Oxford), “ ‘When I feel very near God, I always feel such a need to undress’: Religion, Nakedness and the Body Divine”

Abstract: Diverse institutions have attempted to order and to organise, to regulate and to banish, to promote and to sell nakedness. Focusing on religion’s always ambivalent relationship with the human body, this talks explores a cultural history with surprisingly powerful contemporary resonance.

Réunion sur Zoom (lien habituel).

Seb Falk : « The Dark Ages? Studying and practising science in late medieval England » (11 mars à 17h)

Jeudi 11 mars à 17h : Seb Falk : « The Dark Ages? Studying and practising science in late medieval England »

Dr Seb Falk (Girton College, Cambridge) est un spécialiste de l’histoire de l’astronomie, de la navigation et des mathématiques à la fin du Moyen Âge. Il est l’auteur de plusieurs études sur l’histoire de l’astronomie et des sciences naturelles et notamment de The Light Ages: The Surprising Story of Medieval Science (Allen Lane, 2020) autour de la figure du moine, mathématicien et atronome John de Westwyk.

Lien Zoom habituel, disponible auprès de Frédérique Lachaud

Jeudi 4 mars 2021 à 17 h : Stephen Mullen (Glasgow), « The rise of James Watt: Enlightenment, Commerce & Industry in a British Atlantic Merchant City, 1736-1774 »

Jeudi 4 mars 2021 à  17 h :  Stephen Mullen (Glasgow), The rise of James Watt: Enlightenment, Commerce & Industry in a British Atlantic Merchant City, 1736-1774

On 13 June 2020, during the global conversation about Black Lives Matter, a newspaper article in The Times revealed James Watt – inventor and ‘great improver’ of the steam engine – had historic connections with transatlantic slavery. The article ‘Black Lives Matter: James Watt, father of the age of steam, sold slaves’ came as a shock to many. My research, which underpinned this revelation, went back almost three years. As part of my research for the report ‘Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow’ in 2017-18, I identified that Watt was involved, alongside his father, in colonial commerce in Greenock and Glasgow in Scotland. Later archival work revealed James Watt was not just a beneficiary of his father but had a more direct role in trafficking an enslaved child, Frederick, in Glasgow in 1762. This paper, therefore, does two things; I trace the story of James Watt’s rise, including connections with Atlantic slavery and its commerce in the west of Scotland, then pose questions in comparative context about commemoration and celebration, especially in light of the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020.


La conférence aura lieu en ligne de 17h à 18h30.

Lien Zoom habituel, disponible auprès de Jean-François Dunyach : <jfdunyach(at)>

Marie Ruiz, “Training emigrants to the New World: schools of horticulture and agriculture in Britain and Canada” (11 fév.)

Jeudi 11 février 2021 à  17 h : Marie Ruiz (LARCA / université de Picardie),  “Training emigrants to the New World: schools of horticulture and agriculture in Britain and Canada”


Cette communication porte sur la formation des migrants et migrantes britanniques en Grande-Bretagne et au Canada et leur préparation à la vie rurale dans les colonies au tournant du XXe siècle. Cette étude est fondée sur les centres de formation pour migrants, partenaires de deux sociétés d’émigration métropolitaines : la British Women’s Emigration Association (1884-1919) et la Church Emigration Society (1886-1929). Ces centres de formation répondaient aux préoccupations de l’époque : les écarts démographiques entre les sexes, la dépression rurale et la productivité coloniale. Le recensement de 1901 indique que seulement 6% des femmes britanniques occupaient officiellement des emplois dans l’agriculture, et elles intervenaient surtout dans la petite culture et l’horticulture. Développer l’emploi des femmes dans l’agriculture et l’horticulture était une solution proposée par les militantes pour l’émancipation féminine. L’étude des centres de formation pour migrants met également en évidence le développement de l’éducation scientifique pour les femmes en réponse aux questions sanitaires de l’époque.

 Participer à la réunion Zoom : lien habituel, disponible auprès de fbensimon(at)

Robert Poole, « Peterloo and the English Radical Press » (4 fév.)

Jeudi 4 février 2021 à  17 h : Robert Poole (University of Central Lancashire ), « Peterloo and the English Radical Press »

The Manchester Observer (1818-22) was England’s leading radical newspaper at the time of the ‘Peterloo’ meeting of August 1819, in which it played a central role. For a time it enjoyed the highest circulation of any provincial newspaper, holding a position comparable to that of the Chartist Northern Star twenty years later. It also pioneered dual publication in Manchester and London. Its columns provide insights into Manchester’s secretive local government and into labour and radical movements. Correspondence in the National Archives demonstrates the relationship between radicals in London and in the provinces, and shows how local magistrates conspired with government to prosecute the radical press in the north, where juries were more pliable than those in London. The experience of the Manchester Observer also played a role in the founding of the Manchester Guardian, now simply The Guardian, whose bicentenary is marked by an exhibition in Manchester in 2021.


The Manchester Observer is digitised as part of the Peterloo Collection at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester:

(search for ‘Manchester Observer’)

‘The Manchester Observer: biography of a radical newspaper’, open access at

 Robert Poole, professeur à University of Central Lancashire, est notamment l’auteur de Peterloo. The English Uprising (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2019)

Participer à la réunion Zoom : lien habituel, disponible auprès de fbensimon(at)

Jan-Melissa Schramm : « The Idea of Universal Citizenship and the Rhetoric of Rights in the 1790s: Republican Virtue versus British Reform » (28 jan.)

Jeudi 28 janvier 2021 à  17 h : Jan-Melissa Schramm « The Idea of Universal Citizenship and the Rhetoric of Rights in the 1790s: Republican Virtue versus British Reform »

In the trial of Thomas Hardy for the seditious promotion of constitutional reform in London in 1794, the prosecution used all possible means to establish Hardy’s respect for the works of Thomas Paine, and to claim that such respect was inconsistent with British patriotism.  Crucial to this process was Paine’s adoption of French citizenship:
“A letter was then read [to the jury] from Thomas Paine to the People of France, dated Sept. 25, 1792; in this letter he returns them thanks for having elected him a French Citizen, and a Member of the Convention, and on having broken the line which limited patriotism, like vegetation, to the soil.  Theirs, he said, was not the paltry cause of Kings, but the great cause of mankind.”
Historians have long seen the French Revolution as a critical episode in the story of modern citizenship, encouraging, as counsel for the Crown noted above, the crucial separation of patriotism from ‘the soil’ on which a man was born.  But the idea of citizenship was also deeply problematic, promising much and often delivering little to those who most needed its protection.  In this paper, I will look at the relationship between emergent definitions of citizenship and the language of human rights which rose to prominence in this period, probing both their utopian aims and their conceptual incoherence.  I will pay particular attention to the works of Bentham, Godwin and Paine.

Jan-Melissa Schramm est professeure de Droit et Littérature à l’université de Cambridge.  Elle a récemment publié Censorship and the Representation of the Sacred in Nineteenth-Century England (OUP 2019) et co-édité Sacrifice and the Modern Literature of War (OUP 2018).
La réunion se déroulera sur Zoom. Le lien est disponible auprès de fabrice.bensimon(at) 

Jane Humphries, “History from Underneath: Girls and the Industrial Revolution » (10 déc.)

Jeudi 10 décembre à 17h : Jane Humphries (Oxford), “History from Underneath: Girls and the Industrial Revolution »

Investigations of the effects of industrialisation on young people usually (reflecting the sources available) focus on boys and young men.  Yet historians are suspicious that girls, while relatively disadvantaged in working-class households, still contributed to  ‘the story of Europe’s path to industrial development’ (Maynes et al, 2005, 5) . This paper investigates the position of girls in working-class families using working-class life writing, comparing women’s stories with those of men (Humphries, 2010).  It asks how the expectations and stresses of family life impacted on girls, and whether this left them disadvantaged relative to their brothers in seizing the opportunities and fending off the threats to wellbeing occasioned by economic change.  My comparative review reveals many similarities between boy and girls’ experiences but some important differences.  Girls shared in the dip in age at starting work that earlier work has shown boys experienced in the early nineteenth century, but throughout the period studied, they had less education and narrower job opportunities.  One startling finding concerns the unsettling evidence of girls’ greater vulnerability to sexual predation, which in turn provided constraints on how women lived their lives. Moreover, the gendering of life chances spilled over from the economic to the demographic, for maternity looms over the women’s accounts, a destiny shared with mothers who had faced the same horrors of childbirth without effective medical assistance or analgesics. Girls anticipated the gendered trials and tribulations which their mothers endured and this united them. 


Jane Humphries est professeure retraitée d’histoire économique à l’université d’Oxford. Elle est notamment l’auteure de Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Sur le même sujet, elle a  co-écrit et présenté le documentaire de BBC4, The Children Who Built Victorian Britain (disponible sur YouTube).

Lien Zoom habituel, disponible auprès de fbensimon(at) 

Aude de Mézerac-Zanetti : « Ceci n’est pas une Réforme » : les changements liturgiques sous le règne d’Henri VIII (3 déc. 2020)

Jeudi 3 décembre à 17h : Aude de Mézerac-Zanetti (Université de Lille) : « « Ceci n’est pas une Réforme » : les changements liturgiques sous le règne d’Henri VIII »

Les circonstances et les causes de l’avènement de la suprématie royale en Angleterre sont bien connues comme l’est le contenu doctrinal ambigu et souvent contradictoire des Actes du Parlement (l’Acte de Dix Articles de1536 à teneur luthérienne implicite et l’Acte des Six Articles de 1539 relativement traditionnel), des Injonctions au clergé (1536 et 1538), du Livre des Evêques (1537) et du Livre du Roi (1543). Ainsi de 1534 à la mort du roi en 1547, le régime d’Henri VIII met en œuvre une double politique religieuse : imposition de la suprématie royale et réforme des abus. La foi du souverain et le contenu doctrinal de ses réformes sont quasiment sui generis et leur interprétation a fait l’objet de multiples débats, évoluant au gré de la succession des écoles historiographiques. Mais jusqu’à présent la dimension liturgique de la Réforme henricienne n’avait jamais été prise en compte. Or la découverte d’un important corpus de marginalia dans les livres liturgiques utilisés dans les paroisses pendant cette période de transition permet de remettre en cause l’idée d’une continuité parfaite des pratiques cultuelles avant et après le schisme de 1534. Plusieurs textes essentiels sont corrigés afin d’éviter toute dissonance entre la prière publique et la réalité politico-religieuse instituée par l’Acte de Suprématie. Cette approche par le bas et par des sources matérielles (le livre de messe en tant qu’objet fonctionnel) permet de contribuer aussi à l’étude de la réception de la suprématie royale et des réformes à l’échelle locale. On constate que des prêtres ont parfaitement bien compris les implications de la suprématie du roi et subtilement modifié les textes au gré des politiques royales. Aussi la nouvelle position du roi à la tête de l’Eglise est-elle mise en scène dans la prière qui en devient un vecteur essentiel de diffusion. En outre, adopter une approche inspirée des travaux sur la religion vécue permet de comprendre ce qui se joue dans l’acte de corriger un missel. La dimension performative est, en effet, double : l’obéissance au roi est mise en scène dans la prière mais aussi dans l’objet matériel voué à être inspecté par les autorités laïques du comté. La suprématie royale s’est d’une part diffusée par la liturgie et d’autre part les changements liturgiques ont transformé une réalité politique en un article de foi pour le peuple anglais. Enfin, on se penchera sur les raisons pour lesquelles la dimension liturgique de la Réforme henricienne a été si longtemps négligée.

Aude de Mézerac-Zanetti est Maître de conférences en civilisation britannique à l’Université de Lille et membre du laboratoire CECILLE

Le séminaire se déroulera sur Zoom. Lien habituel, disponible auprès de  Sandrine Parageau <sparageau(at)>

Murray Pittock, « Edinburgh’s Enlightenment 1660-1750: The French Connexion » (26 nov.)

Jeudi 26 novembre à 17h : Murray Pittock (University of Glasgow), « Edinburgh’s Enlightenment 1660-1750: The French Connexion »

This lecture examines the final functional century of the Auld Alliance in terms of France’s historic influences on Scotland and its capital, and on the extent that these underpinned the infrastructural and civic development of the Scottish Enlightenment. Scotland’s exclusion from an independent foreign policy after 1603 led to a series of futile attempts to embed Scottish interests in the English Empire which brought it into conflict with France for the first time; but Scottish intellectuals continued to flourish in French society. After 1707, Scotland’s status changed and French foreign policy objectives frequently focused on the redivision of the new British state through intermittent support for the Stuarts. The liberty-loving mountaineer and the concept of Highlandism left an enduring legacy in France. In Scotland, the capital, Edinburgh, not only dominated Scotland’s trade with France and continued to look to France-and in particular Paris- for a lead in urban design and other areas, but also engaged with its example in infrastructure, communications, research, innovation, the arts and commerce and society as well as providing-in John Law-one of the most controversial and farsighted financial innovators of the modern era. The lecture closes with a brief consideration of France’s contribution to the last major Jacobite Rising of 1745, and the end of the Auld Alliance when Le Grand Dérangement brought British Army policy in Scotland into French Canada, followed by Scottish troops.



Lien Zoom habituel, disponible auprès de Jean-François Dunyach <jean-francois.dunyach(at)

19 novembre: l’intervention de Rachel Holmes est annulée

Jeudi 19 novembre à 17h : l’intervention de Rachel Holmes est annulée. 

 En remplacement : Fabrice Bensimon (Sorbonne Université) : « Londres, 10 avril 1848 : les chartistes dans l’œil du photographe »

Résumé : Pour les chartistes, le lundi 10 avril 1848 était un grand jour. Depuis des semaines, ils faisaient signer la pétition pour la Charte du peuple. Celle-ci devait être remise au Parlement, et les chartistes se rassemblèrent au sud de la Tamise, à Kennington Common. Combien étaient-ils ? 400 000, selon leur dirigeant Feargus O’Connor ; 10 000 selon les autorités, une hypothèse basse qu’un dessin de presse semblait confirmer. Le mouvement allait ensuite décliner irrémédiablement 

130 ans plus tard, deux daguerréotypes émergeaient des archives royales. Bien qu’ils aient été abondamment reproduits depuis dans les manuels, les revues ou sur Internet, ces premières photographies politiques de l’histoire n’ont sans pas encore livré tous leurs secrets. Que nous disent-elles du chartisme et de ce moment politique ? Que nous montrent-elles du monde ouvrier, dans ce qui est alors la plus grande ville au monde, le Londres de la révolution industrielle ? 

Le séminaire ne pourra se réunir à la Maison de la Recherche, mais uniquement en visio. Lien habituel, disponible auprès de Yann Béliard yann_beliard(at)