Urban Knowledges: Making Knowledge in Urban Contexts, 1700-1925

Activity: Participating in or organising event(s)Organising a conference, workshop, exhibition, performance, inquiry, course etcResearch


This project seeks to build upon key themes identified through two highly successful workshops run by the Manchester History of Humanities Network (2016-2017). The intellectual agenda of the network took shape around two key intellectual objectives, and these form the basis of this new project.

Historicising practices of knowledge in general:

• Places, objects, and cultures of knowledge.
• Demarcation of humanities and sciences.
• Communities of thought and practice.
• Practicalities of handling knowledge, then and now.
• Questions of collection, exchange, dissemination, protection.
• Questions of material preservation: digital humanities as the new frontier.

Exploring specific forms of urban knowledge, with particular reference to Manchester and the (industrial) North:

• How the shape of the city influences the constructed and unintended forms, understanding and applications of different kinds of knowledge.
• The relationship between ‘urban’ and ‘provincial’ knowledge.
• The city (and university) archives as the repositories of this urban history of knowledge.
• Knowledge-making and knowledge-gaining beyond the academy: learned societies, libraries, art galleries, etc.
• Development of civic, educational and professional institutions such as the Societies for the Extension of University Teaching.
• The city as not only a locus, but also as an agent of scientific, medical, and humanistic discovery.

By focusing on such issues, ‘Making Knowledge’ seeks to unite and develop a growing body of work currently being done on ‘metropolitan science’ and cultures of knowledge in the early modern period, creative communities and civic cultures in Georgian and Victorian studies, and an ever-increasing interest in new histories of communication and information.

The project is organised around three whole-day sandpit workshops, each of which is conceived as a way of bringing together potential collaborators with different kinds of expertise – academics with different disciplinary or methodological perspectives; special collections staff from the UML; archivists from other related archives; etc. Each will be led by a different member of the project team and will be framed around short ‘position papers’ from participants.

Sandpit 1: Cultures of Knowledge, Scientific and Humanistic (2nd February 2018).
The point of this workshop is to ask how far, across the broad period under consideration, the sciences and the humanities could be said to constitute a single community of practice. Run by Stuart Jones, Professor of Intellectual History.

Sandpit 2: Cities and the Extension of the Academy (9th March 2018).
In partnership with the Co-operative College and the National Co-operative Archive. The focus here is on how knowledge moved between academic institutions and civic institutions. Case studies include the university extension movement and other initiatives in higher education for the working class (e.g. the educational activities of the co-operative movement). Run by Federica Coluzzi, PhD candidate in English.

Sandpit 3: Knowledge Institutions and Civic Identities (8th June 2018).
There is a particular focus on Manchester here, but in comparison with other urban and provincial centres, and framed by a concern with the question of the relationship between metropole and province. What role did knowledge institutions (colleges/universities, learned societies, theatres, museums, etc.) play in the creation of civic identities? Alternatively, how were they undermined and bypassed in the making of knowledge or civic identity? Run by Alice Marples, Research Associate at the John Rylands Research Institute.

Period1 Jan 201830 Jun 2018
Event typeWorkshop
LocationManchesterShow on map

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • John Rylands Research Institute and Library