HST6044 ImageHST6044: Universal Reform in Revolutionary England: Exploring the Hartlib Papers

15 credits (Semester 2017-18: Autumn)

Module Leader: Dr Thomas Leng

'I am apt to believe, that when God set Adam in the Garden Eden to keep it and dresse it, He meant to exercise his Industry, as well about the discovery of the fruitfulnesse of perfect nature, which could not be without much delight to his understanding, as about the pleasantnesse of the place, which he could have by dressing increased, and made compleatly answerable to the perfection of his own imagination.' Samuel Hartlib, The Reformed Commonwealth Of Bees (London, 1655).

Module Summary

This module is an introduction to a major archival resource held at Sheffield University Library and available in a searchable electronic edition, the papers of Samuel Hartlib (1600-1662), a German-born intellectual reformer, publisher and 'intelligencer' based in London from the 1620s to the end of his life. It introduces you to Hartlib's milieu, the 'circle' of likeminded collaborators with whom he surrounded himself, in context of the broader intellectual changes of the period (including the stirrings of the 'scientific revolution', the 'sceptical crisis' of the seventeenth century, and the often utopian aspirations of the English revolution).


Module aims

This module is an introduction to a major archival resource held at Sheffield University Library and available in a searchable electronic edition, the papers of Samuel Hartlib (1600-1662), a German-born intellectual reformer, publisher and 'intelligencer' based in London from the 1620s to the end of his life. It introduces yoto Hartlib's milieu, the 'circle' of likeminded collaborators with whom he surrounded himself, in context of the broader intellectual changes of the period (including the stirrings of the 'scientific revolution', the 'sceptical crisis' of the seventeenth century, and the often utopian aspirations of the English revolution). The interests of the Hartlib circle were, quite literally, universal in scope, product of a world-view that saw the entirety of creation as having purpose within a divine plan, and so this option will serve to introduce you to the intellectual eclecticism evident in the Hartlib papers. But it will offer guidance for how to interpret this source in terms of the central preoccupations and concerns of Hartlib and his associates. One focus will be the religious motivations for intellectual and social improvement, and the importance of millenarianism in particular. Overall, this module offers a detailed introduction to the world-views of some of the most intriguing and original intellects of their generation.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you will be able to demonstrate:

  1. An understanding of the interests and ambitions of the Hartlib Circle;
  2. An ability to explore the Hartlib Papers in an informed and critically engaged manner;
  3. A knowledge of the major intellectual debates of the mid-seventeenth century;
  4. An understanding of the relationship between the history of ideas and the broader historical context;
  5. The ability to assess conflicting historiographical arguments and to reach considered and independent conclusions in relation to such arguments;
  6. The ability to independently research a topic using the Hartlib papers and in light of the major issues explored in this course.

Teaching

Learning hours
Seminar hours Tutorial hours Independent Learning
10 1 139

The module will be taught in five, two-hour classes. The first will serve as an introduction to historiography on the Hartlib circle, focussing on the religious motivations for the improvement of knowledge and society and the theme of Baconian dominion over nature. Further seminars will explore the international dimensions of the Hartlib circle and its debt to the tradition of encyclopaedism; the communication of knowledge; the improvement of the natural and social world; and the impact of the English Revolution on this world-view. Subjects that might be explored in coursework essays include alchemy; biblical criticism; universal languages; and natural history. You will, in addition, have individual tutorial contact with the module leader in order to discuss your written work for this module.

Assessment

Assessment methods
Assessment % of final mark Length
Coursework 100% 3000 words

You will prepare a 3,000-word paper relating to at least one of the key themes of the module.

 

Selected reading

  • Hugh Trevor-Roper, ‘Three foreigners: the philosophers of the Puritan Revolution’, in Religion, the Reformation and social change (London, 1967), pp. 237-293.
  • Charles Webster, Samuel Hartlib and the Advancement of Learning (Cambridge, 1970).
  • Charles Webster, The great instauration. Science, medicine and reform 1626-1660 (London 1975; 2nd edition, Oxford 2002).
  • JC Davis, Utopia and the ideal society. A study of English utopian writing 1516-1700 (Cambridge, 1981).
  • T. Raylor and M. Leslie (eds), Culture and cultivation in early modern England: writing and the land, (Leicester, 1992).
  • Mark Greengrass, Tim Raylor and Michael Leslie (eds), Samuel Hartlib and universal reformation (Cambridge, 1994).
  • John Young, Faith, medical alchemy and natural philosophy. Johann Moriaen, reformed intelligencer, and the Hartlib circle (Aldershot, 1998).
  • Howard Hotson, Johann Heinrich Alsted 1588-1638. Between Renaissance, Reformation, and universal reform (Oxford, 2000).
  • Mark Greengrass, ‘Samuel Hartlib and the Commonwealth of Learning’, in John Barnard, et al., eds, The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, iv (Cambridge, 2002).
  • Peter Harrison, The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science (Cambridge, 2007).
  • Margaret J Osler, Reconfiguring the world. Nature, God, and human understanding from the middle ages to early modern Europe (Baltimore, 2010).

 

 

 

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