The Material Past in England, 1660-1780
The recovery and reinvention of the past were fundamental to the conception of the modern in England during the long eighteenth century. Scholars then forged connections between linear time and empirical evidence that transformed historical consciousness. Chronologers, textual critics, and antiquaries constructed the notion of a material past, which spread through the cultures of print and consumption to a broader public, offering powerful--and for that reason, contested--ways of perceiving temporality and change, the historicity of objects, and the relation between fact and the imagination. But even as these innovative ideas won acceptance, they also generated rival forms of historical meaning. The regular procession of chronological time accentuated the deviance of anachronism and ephemerality, while the opposition of unique artifacts to ubiquitous commodities exoticized things that straddled this divide.
About the author:
Barrett Kalter is Associate Professor of English at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.