How did eighteenth-century readers interact with a best-seller?
David Hume's History of England (1754-62) was one of the best selling books of the eighteenth century. The book ran through a dazzling range of editions and circulated very widely at public lending libraries. Yet Hume's History was no beach-read, it was a deeply challenging text that scorned cherished ideas of religious history and undermined some core facets British constitutional identity. How did readers take possession of the text for themselves? And how can we recover past reading experiences?
Talk given by Professor Mark Towsey, University of Liverpool
Light reception to follow.
This event is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Professor Mark Towsey studied at the University of St Andrews at undergraduate and postgraduate level, completing his doctorate in 2007. After one year at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, as the Past and Present Society’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Towsey arrived in Liverpool in October 2008 on a three-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship. He was then appointed to a permanent position as Lecturer in 2010. His primarily interests include the history of reading in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, using the practice and experience of reading in the past as a key to understanding much broader social and cultural processes across the English-speaking world. This research agenda was pioneered by his monograph on the social impact of the Enlightenment in Scotland, but he has since broadened out my interests to include published research on the cultural history of libraries, the reading experiences of Napoleonic prisoners of war, and the history of women's reading.