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The Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English

Symposium 2011

Enlightenment, Dissent and Toleration

Saturday 5 November 2011

A Symposium was held on 5 November 2011 on the subject of ‘Enlightenment, Dissent and Toleration’ to celebrate the journal Enlightenment and Dissent, sponsored by the Dr Williams’s Centre for Dissenting Studies. About forty colleagues, friends, and doctoral students took part. The symposium was organised into three sessions with Dr David Wykes, Dr Ken E Smith and Professor Grayson Ditchfield chairing them respectively. The discussions were lively and indicated the diverse interests and range of knowledge of the participants.

The speakers and topics were:

The Revd. Professor Alan P.F. Sell, Milton Keynes, on ‘Dissenters amidst the Arguments for and against Toleration: Some Soundings 1550-1689’

Professor Grayson Ditchfield, University of Kent at Canterbury, on ‘ “The right of private judgement, with the care of the public safety”: the Church of England’s Perceptions of Protestant Dissent in the later Eighteenth Century’

Dr Rémy Duthille, University of Bordeaux, on ‘Reading Richard Price’s Discourse on the Love of Our Country in Context’

Dr Mark Philp, Oriel College, Oxford, on ‘Preaching to the Unconverted: Rationality and Repression in the 1790s’

Dr Martin Fitzpatrick, Aberystwyth, ‘Enlightenment, Dissent and Toleration’

In the final lecture, Dr Fitzpatrick talked about the founding, with Dr D. O. Thomas, of The Price-Priestley Newsletter and its successor Enlightenment and Dissent. In the first editorial for the former in 1977, it was noted that there was growing interest in Richard Price and Joseph Priestley and that the time was ripe for the creation of a forum for the exchange of ideas for scholars working in the field. This it achieved, but it remained fairly narrow in its focus. Subsequently the ambition developed to create a journal with a wider scope and broader ambitions, and in 1982 the first number of Enlightenment and Dissent was published. Part of its intention was to encourage the development of studies locating Protestant dissent, and especially rational dissent, within the English Enlightenment. Although Franco Venturi had recognised a ‘vigorous and deep Enlightenment in England’ which he specifically associated with rational dissenters and their milieu, the concept of an English Enlightenment was not generally accepted at the time. Enlightenment and Dissent has played a role in gaining recognition of its existence, as Roy Porter was quick to acknowledge. It is widely cited by studies in the field and its readership covers Europe, America and South East Asia. The 28th number for 2012 will contain all the papers of this symposium in celebration of the journal.


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