Penelope Corfield co-organises, with a team of close colleagues, a celebrated seminar at London University. It focuses upon eighteenth century history, defined ‘long’ – so that themes commencing in earlier eras and/or developing into later times are taken as routine subjects for discussion. The venue is the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.
Meetings are held fortnightly during the University academic terms on Wednesdays, starting at 17.15 and ending at c.19.00. Afterwards, the speaker(s), organisers and all seminar participants are invited to a local pub, followed by restaurant, for drinks, dinner and continuing discussion. A pegged low price for the meal is operated for postgraduates and immediate post-doctoral students, to offset the high cost of meeting in central London. In the best eighteenth-century tradition, this seminar’s après-seminar sociability aims at exuberance and conviviality but without losing coherence of discussion.
Some meetings each year are held at ‘outreach’ venues, often in the plentiful museums, galleries, and eighteenth-century buildings to be found in London. The aim is to continue the scholarly discussions, but with a wider range of participants, who can be attracted to the different venues. For example, in November 2018 a scintillating event at the Speaker’s House, Palace of Westminster, featured a lecture on Arthur Onslow, the highly influential eighteenth-century Speaker, and a reception. The seminar is very grateful to an anonymous donor for annual funding which underwrites the ‘outreach’ programme.
*A brief note on the seminar’s name: the fortnightly gathering began in 1921, at the time of the foundation of London University’s Institute of Historical Research. The seminar’s original name was simply the ‘Eighteenth-Century History seminar’, with a chronological span from c.1688 to c.1832. But, over time, the seminar began to broaden and lengthen its characteristic remit. By the mid-1990s, its name had morphed by common consent into ‘the Long Eighteenth-Century Seminar’. This group was not the very first to use the new term, which did not mean the same to all users. But the quick spread of the term became part of a wider Zeitgeist shift in eighteenth-century studies, indicating a willingness to broaden thematically from traditional political history to embrace also social/cultural/economic/gender/intellectual/religious history (without shedding political history). The core timespan still runs from the later seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century, but speakers are encouraged to start earlier and/or end later, if their themes so require. As a result, the seminar is free to challenge traditional chronologies and narrative teleologies; and to seek interdisciplinary approaches.
Everyone with an interest in the Long Eighteenth Century, defined lengthily, broadly and/or deeply, is warmly invited to join the debates. For the current seminar programme, consult: https://www.history.ac.uk/seminars/british-history-long-18th-century. To offer a paper to the seminar, please contact the lead organisers Sarah Lloyd and Joe Cozens. And/or to get onto the mailing list, please contact the seminar administrator Gillian Williamson.