University of Leicester
2018WALEMRPhD.pdf (3.97 MB)

'The Sympathy of a Crowd': Periodicals and the Practices of Natural History in Nineteenth-Century Britain

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posted on 2018-01-23, 13:33 authored by Matthew Robert Wale
This thesis examines the close relationship between periodicals and the scientific practices of natural history in Britain during the second half of the nineteenth century. It argues that the remarkable expansion of the periodical press from the 1850s onwards had profound implications for the ways in which scientific knowledge was produced, changing how naturalists circulated information, opinions, and specimens. Focussing on four specific practices of natural history - correspondence, collecting, classifying, and associating - the thesis demonstrates how periodicals were informed by these practices and, in turn, the ways these practices were facilitated and shaped by periodicals. Much of this thesis draws upon the correspondence archive of Henry Tibbats Stainton (1822-92), one of the most eminent entomologists of the nineteenth century. He established and edited three natural history periodicals: the Entomologist's Annual (1855-74), the Entomologist's Weekly Intelligencer (1856-61), and the Entomologist's Monthly Magazine (1864-present). Stainton's letters, held by the Natural History Museum in London, are therefore among the largest collections of material relating to the running of scientific journals outside of the Royal Society. Despite this, neither Stainton's correspondence nor the periodicals he produced have been subject to sustained analysis by historians. This thesis therefore employs these sources to reveal how different kinds of scientific community were formed by periodicals, and how these communities utilised the periodical medium to articulate a shared sense of identity. The Intelligencer serves as a particularly instructive case study, as this weekly periodical applied newly developed printing technologies to the established mode of letter-writing, industrialising scientific correspondence and encouraging active participation in natural history amongst a wide range of individuals. The thesis thereby engages with key historiographical debates over 'popular science' and professionalisation of the life sciences in this period.



Dawson, Gowan; Cooper, Paul; Shaw, Philip

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of English

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD


Due to copyright restrictions some images have been removed from the electronic version of this thesis. The unabridged version can be consulted, on request, at the University of Leicester Library.



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