Course overview

The course will examine the enormous impact of new ideas and Enlightenment thinking on British society in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Science, human reason and ingenuity would be the path to a better world. Old customs, traditions and beliefs would be swept away and, in the words of the historian, Roy Porter, the foundations would be laid for the modern world. The new inventions and technologies of the industrial revolution would make Britain the ‘workshop of the world’, resulting in increased production and a more prosperous society. These were some of the hopes of the Enlightenment that we will examine on the course.

Course description

When William Wordsworth wrote the words ‘a mind forever voyaging through strong seas of thought’ he was referring to the mathematician, Isaac Newton. Many others also voyaged to forge new ways of thinking, in politics and philosophy, and to make new discoveries in science, astronomy, chemistry, botany and geology. Some voyaged literally to find new lands and sea routes. From Canada’s Arctic coast to Timbuctoo, British ships and geographers were mapping countries and coastlines, experiencing hardship, danger and astonishing adventures.

The course will examine the work of some of these men and women, the thinkers, writers and explorers who contributed to this flowering of knowledge, from Joseph Banks to Joseph Priestley, from William Smith to William Parry, from Mary Anning to Mary Wollstonecraft.

The course will also look at how these new Enlightenment ideas were disseminated through a variety of media - the Royal Society and other learned societies, the press, museums, salons, masonic lodges, and the universities

This age of astonishing and exciting discovery soon became the age of wonder

Classes are interactive with plenty of discussion. Reading and research beyond the class room is encouraged and research which is written up can be shared with class members via the Canvas programme.

What financial support is available?

We don't want anything to stand in your way when it comes to bringing Adult learning within reach so if you need anything to support you to achieve your goals then speak to one of our education experts during your enrolment journey. Most of our courses are government funded but if you don't qualify or need alternative financial help to access them then let us know.

What other support is available?

All of our digital content, teaching and learning activities and assessments are designed to be accessible so if you need any additional support you can discuss this with the education experts during your enrolment journey and we will do all we can to make sure you have optimal access.

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