Penelope Corfield enjoys lecturing and likes to get her audiences talking. The following illustrated lectures can be booked for delivery, without a fee, though with a contribution towards travel costs if travel distances are great. Talks usually last for 50 minutes (or can be abbreviated if required), followed by questions and discussion. Please note that technical facilities for showing Powerpoint illustrations will be needed. To book a lecture or for more information, please contact me here.
‘Will You Not Shake My Hand?’ The Advent of the Egalitarian Handshake in Britain, 1700-1850
In Georgian Britain, not only were the old rituals of bowing and curtseying becoming greatly simplified, but a new form of social greeting between equals was also slowly emerging alongside. This illustrated lecture looks at evidence for the advent of the hand-shake, which was emerging in urban and commercial circles from at least the seventeenth century onwards. It constitutes a fascinating case history of change within change, with far-reaching social, cultural and political meanings.
Proto-Democracy: What it Meant to be a Voter in Georgian London, 1700-1850
While many parts of Georgian Britain had absolutely no role in the electoral process, the reverse was the case within metropolitan London. There a large number of adult male electors, ranging from gentlemen to poor artisans and workmen, had the right to vote in national, municipal and local elections. This illustrated lecture demonstrates how the voters used their votes; considers what was entailed by the system of open voting (before the secret ballot was introduced in 1872) – and assesses what this large-scale voter participation meant in terms of the evolution of democracy.
The ‘Aristocracy of Talent’: The Coming Meritocratic Ideal, 1750-1830
Georgian Britain was experiencing considerable social change, with the expansion of towns, trade and industry. In that context, a further indicator of changing cultural attitudes was seen in the multiplying chorus of calls for the traditional ‘Aristocracy of Birth and Blood’ to be replaced by a new ‘Aristocracy of Talent’. This illustrated lecture shows how a new ideal of Meritocracy was emerging, complete with debates as to how to find true social Merit – a theme with continuing topical relevance.