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Laura Brassington

Laura Brassington

Department: History and Philosophy of Science

Supervisors: Professor Jim Secord and Dr Anne Secord

College: King's

AHRC subject area: History

Title of Thesis: Considering Nineteenth-Century Hierarchies through Charles Darwin's Correspondence


Biography:

In the nineteenth century, British naturalists depended heavily upon correspondence networks to exchange information and specimens. The importance of these networks to the most eminent figures has been widely acknowledged; yet the networks of working-class naturalists have been afforded much less consideration. Most historiography on working-class intellectual life uses working-class autobiographies to focus on the literary pursuits of these men and women in the nineteenth century. I began interrogating these historiographical assumptions whilst completing my undergraduate dissertation at St Andrews. In this project, I looked at the Banksian Natural History Society, a group based in Manchester between 1829 and 1836. Typically addressed as a working-class collective, I used the Banksians’ Transactions and other archival material to consider how the Society actually brought together gentleman and artisans through a mutual interest in science. Through my research, I have come to understand science as a social construct; what is accepted as knowledge is determined by the social relations of its proponents. I have continued to interrogate these assumptions through further archival projects, including my MPhil dissertation. This will form the basis of the first chapter of my PhD, in which I will consider the correspondence between working-class men and Charles Darwin.

Other academic interests

I have also co-convened Cambridge Women in Philosophy (2016-17) and Cambridge Minorities and Philosophy (2017-present).