Roey Sweet on Institutions and Networks

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By msangster

(Many thanks to Roey Sweet (University of Leicester) for sending a post summarising the thought-provoking reflections that she presented in the roundtable session on the network metaphor at the ‘Institutions as Networks’ workshop.)

My own research is on antiquaries and the Society of Antiquaries during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Like many other scholars, I suspect, I’ve been accustomed to think loosely about antiquaries as forming part of a network of individuals and, to a lesser degree, a network of corresponding societies around a metropolitan hub in the nineteenth century. The papers given during the workshop prompted me to think rather harder about the network metaphor and how we apply it to institutions of literature.

The original Society of Antiquaries evolved from a ‘network’ of like-minded men, drawn from the middle classes as well as the aristocracy who used to meet in local taverns and coffee houses: the network was one of personal contact and epistolary communication – like so many others of the period – but at what point did it become an institution? Was it in 1707 when Humfrey Wanley (above) first started to keep minutes of their meetings, or in 1717 when continuous …read more