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The Useful Knowledge of William HuttonCulture and Industry in Eighteenth-Century Birmingham$
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Susan E. Whyman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198797838

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198797838.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

An Author, a Desk, and a Notebook

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
The Useful Knowledge of William Hutton
Author(s):

Susan E. Whyman

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198797838.003.0001

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.

Keywords:   Industrial Revolution, Enlightenment, eighteenth-century Birmingham, literacy, education, self-education, autobiography, microhistory

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