Susan Bennett on the Society of Arts

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By msangster

(Many thanks to Susan Bennett (William Shipley Group for Royal Society of Arts History) for allowing us to publish the wide-ranging talk that she gave on the RSA’s eighteenth- and nineteenth-century connections at the ‘Institutions as Networks’ workshop.)

‘Little more…than of a Society in the moon’: Publicising the work of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (1754-1900)

Often confused with its sister societies, the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries and, because of the shortened form of its name also the Royal Academy of Arts, the Society of Arts’ membership represented the ‘Nobility, Clergy, Gentry, Merchants, etc’ from its very first meeting in 1754. Through this network, through its activities and through its publications the Society presents a wide variety of connections and networks, which this paper attempts to illuminate.

Foundation meeting of the Society of Arts, held at Rawthmell’s Coffee House 22nd March 1754, by Anna Zinkeisen, 1954. (c) RSA.

In a footnote in the first volume of his Annals of Agriculture and other Useful Arts, the agriculturist, Arthur Young hoped that ‘the excellent Society…of Arts…will not be forgotten’. In my opinion’, he added, it has ‘done by far more good with an income …read more