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Title: John Aubrey's antiquarian scholarship : a study in the seventeenth-century Republic of Letters
Author: Jackson Williams, Kelsey
ISNI:       0000 0004 2023 6029
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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The writings of John Aubrey (1626-1697) cover a variety of subjects, including natural philosophy, mathematics, educational theory, biography, and magic, among others. His principal scholarly interest, however, was antiquarianism, the early modern discipline which embraced subjects such as archaeology, anthropology, and palaeography. This thesis is a study of Aubrey’s antiquarian writings within the context of the European Republic of Letters. It begins with a revisionary survey of antiquarianism in England, 1660-1720, and proceeds to map his personal contacts and library before studying each of his major antiquarian works in detail. Aubrey emerges from this as a product of his time, but somewhat unusual in his eclectic use of the antiquarian tradition and his blending of antiquarian and natural philosophical methodologies. He was receptive to the latest scholarship, regardless of its origin, and his antiquarian writings were never mere antiquarianism, but moved beyond technical scholarship to address wider issues concerning the origins of English culture, the evolution of religion, the antiquity of the earth, and the nature of human invention. Aubrey is now best known for his so-called Brief Lives, a series of biographies of contemporaries, and this thesis also includes a chapter studying the Lives as a form of antiquarianism. It argues that their keen observation and unconventional form are due to a mixture of antiquarian minuteness with traditions of Theophrastan character-writing and Tacitean historiography and that previous readings of them rely too heavily upon an outdated view of Aubrey as eccentric and peripheral to the larger intellectual movements of the century. This thesis concludes with a reassessment of Aubrey’s scholarship and an argument that the patterns revealed highlight the insufficiency of current theories of antiquarian development in the early modern period. It also argues for the “literary” quality of Aubrey’s work and emphasises the importance of reading his antiquarian texts within the context of early modern definitions of literature.
Supervisor: Lewis, Rhodri Sponsor: Mellon Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Early modern English literature (1550 ? 1780) ; Early Modern Britain and Europe ; Intellectual History ; Antiquarianism