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Title: Sir William Hamilton : networks and knowledge
Author: Stone, Geoffrey Charles
ISNI:       0000 0004 9356 1666
Awarding Body: University of Roehampton
Current Institution: University of Roehampton
Date of Award: 2020
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Sir William Hamilton was the British Envoy to the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily between 1764-1799. The thesis explores his interests in natural philosophy and antiquarianism. It examines his contribution to Neoclassical design and, via the Wedgwood factory, its extension to the ‘middling people’. Hamilton’s extraordinary network of contacts is explored throughout the text. The thesis focusses on three major areas. The first explores his two vase collections, their publication and significance. Secondly Hamilton’s empirical approach to the geology of the Neapolitan Caldera is examined. The third element considers the social changes of the late eighteenth century and their interplay with Hamilton’s life and public reputation. The outcome was Hamilton’s dismissal from the Naples post in 1799. Hamilton is most commonly known and admired for the publication of his two vase collections, yet the thesis demonstrates that his contribution to them is far less than is commonly believed. The author of the first, Pierre-François Hugues, known as 'Baron d'Hancarville' published his own prehistory of ancient art under the title Antiquités etrusques, grecques et romains, tirees du cabinet de M. Hamilton (Naples, 1766-1776). It was not the catalogue raisonné that Hamilton’s desired and funded. The outcome was a text largely unrelated to the exquisite coloured plates of ancient vases. Hamilton’s Collection of Engravings from Ancient Vases Mostly of Pure Greek Workmanship was published between 1791and 1795. He wrote an excellent introduction, but most of the work was that of Wilhelm Tischbein and Count Italinsky. Emma Hamilton’s agency in publicising ancient vases via her Attitudes in which they featured has not previously been adequately recognised, equally true of her role as a diplomat. Hamilton and his wife cannot be separated in these respects. Where Hamilton has been grossly underestimated, remedied in the thesis, relates to his inductive research into natural philosophy, made known to a wider public by his superb two volumed work Campi Phlegraei, written and published by the Envoy. The thesis demonstrates how he advanced understanding of volcanoes, seismology and charting the boundaries of the Neapolitan Caldera. Additionally, his perception of the enormity of geological time and the universality of natural scientific events is explored in a manner not previously undertaken. In summary, Hamilton should be viewed as a significant eighteenth century figure noted for fashioning Neoclassical taste and as a major contributor towards the modern science of geology.
Supervisor: Brown, Michael ; Garcia Morcillo, Marta Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available