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Matthew Kadane
Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Geneva, NY 14456-3301)
The Path to Enlightenment: The Life of Pentecost Barker (1690-1762)

This project aims to unravel the process by which an ordinary person in the eighteenth century came to embrace the culture of the Enlightenment. It centers on the life of Pentecost Barker (1690-1762), a previously unknown ship's purser from Plymouth who began as a traditional religious Dissenter and ended as a radical Unitarian. His change owed, I argue, to a complicated mix of economic ambition, intellectual and spiritual curiosity, imperial encounters, and, not least, the pressures put on his traditional religiosity by his heavy drinking, itself a consequence of the sociability required to win credit for his business and class ambitions. His life, made accessible by a large diary and hundreds of letters, can also be read as culturally symptomatic of the generally complex process by which Britons abandoned tradition, embraced modernity, and then fought (for Barker in a famous and unsuccessful court case) to convince others of the merits of their new outlook.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
Intellectual History

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2014 – 8/31/2014