An Author, a Desk, and a Notebook
The introduction shows the convergence and intertwining of the Industrial Revolution and the provincial Enlightenment. At the centre of this industrial universe lay Birmingham; and at its centre was Hutton. England’s second city is described in the mid-eighteenth century, and Hutton is used as a lens to explore the book’s themes: the importance of a literate society shared by non-elites; the social category of ‘rough diamonds’; how individuals responded to economic change; political participation in industrial towns; shifts in the modes of authorship; and an analysis of social change. The strategy of using microhistory, biography, and the history of the book is discussed, and exciting new sources are introduced. The discovery that self-education allowed unschooled people to participate in literate society renders visible people who were assumed to be illiterate. This suggests that eighteenth-century literacy was greater than statistics based on formal schooling indicate.
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