Chapter

The Life of Learning

KEITH THOMAS

in Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 117

Published by British Academy

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780197262795
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191753954 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5871/bacad/9780197262795.003.0006

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

The Life of Learning

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Four hundred years ago, scholars enjoyed much higher esteem than they do now. Rulers competed for their services and their work was assumed to be of crucial importance to everyone. This chapter reflects on the life of learning in early modern England to shed some light on the very different position of those who lead that life today. It asks what led these men to devote their energies to editing texts and investigating forgotten antiquities. But the main concern is their role in the society of their day. The chapter seeks to view them, as it were, ethnographically, to consider the relationship between their lives of learning and the larger world in which they lived, and to contrast it with the position of their modern counterparts. The focus is on scholars who were engaged in the recovery and interpretation of the past, and not on those who were concerned with mathematics, philosophy, or the nature of the physical world.

Keywords: scholars; early modern England; learning; society

Chapter.  18443 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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