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Title: The diary of Charles Blagden : information management and the gentleman of science in eighteenth-century Britain
Author: Wills, Hannah
ISNI:       0000 0004 7964 9100
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis provides a transcription and examination of the diary of Charles Blagden (1748-1820), physician and secretary of the Royal Society between 1784 and 1797. The diary is here understood as a 'paper tool' for managing information, that assisted Blagden's efforts in fashioning his identity as a gentleman. Informed by a variety of manuscript genres, the diary operated as an aide-memoire, in accordance with eighteenth-century understandings of associationism. Blagden used the diary to advance through patronage and emulation, by cultivating relationships with eminent male scholars-the chemist Henry Cavendish and president of the Royal Society Joseph Banks. The eighteenth century saw the emergence of alternative cultures of advancement that favoured meritocracy and scientific publication over displays of patronage. This thesis reassesses key events in Blagden's career, in the priority dispute known as the 'water controversy' and the Royal Society 'dissensions' of the 1780s, as examples where such cultures of advancement conflicted. In building his career, Blagden undertook natural philosophical investigations with his patrons, supported by his diary. This thesis exposes Blagden's scientific agenda, and his approach to record keeping, as examples of eighteenth-century 'oeconomy'. Though Blagden had sought the patronage of Banks and Cavendish, this strategy did not furnish him with the gentlemanly status he desired. Dissatisfied by the rate of advancement and reward, Blagden increasingly attached himself to a community of socially elevated women in London in the 1790s, whose lifestyle he emulated in order to pursue his social ambitions, as seen in his diary for the year 1795. Exploring the development of Blagden's diary reveals the role of a material object in assisting the self-fashioning of the identity of the gentleman of science in Britain, at the end of the eighteenth century.
Supervisor: Werrett, S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available