Conference 2008

The Dissenting Mind: the Aikin Circle, c.1760s to c.1860s

Dissenting Mind

Saturday 17 May 2008

On Saturday 17 May 2008 the Centre’s fourth one-day conference was held at Dr Williams’s Library on the subject of the dissenting mind: the intellectual and scholarly contribution made by dissenters to English society in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It focused on the Aikin family—that remarkably gifted provincial family of dissenters in which every descendant over three generations has an entry in the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography—together with the circle of intellectuals associated with them. The poet Anna Letitia Barbauld is undoubtedly the best known, but there are entries in the Dictionary for her father, John Aikin senior, tutor at the celebrated Warrington Academy, for her brother John junior, physician, literary critic and editor, and John junior’s children, Arthur Aikin, natural scientist and author, Charles Rochemont, surgeon and chemist, Edmund, architect, and Lucy Aikin, author and historian.

The lectures were:

‘John Aikin senior and Warrington Academy’ by Dr David Wykes, Director, Dr Williams’s Library

‘How dissent made Anna Letitia Barbauld, and what she made of dissent’ by Professor William McCarthy, Iowa State University

‘Arthur Aikin, his circle and the character of English industrialization’ by Professor Ian Inkster, Nottingham Trent University

‘Lucy Aikin and the legacies of Dissent’ by Dr Felicity James, Christ Church, Oxford

The following collection of essays arising from the conference was published in 2011:

Religious Dissent and the Aikin-Barbauld Circle, 1740-1860, ed. Felicity James and Ian Inkster (Cambridge University Press)