This collection of essays explores the questions of what counted as knowledge in Victorian Britain, who defined knowledge and the knowledgeable, by what means and by what criteria. During the Victorian period, the structure of knowledge took on a new and recognizably modern form, and the disciplines that we now take for granted took shape. The ways in which knowledge was tested also took on a new form, with oral examinations and personal contacts giving way to formal written tests. New institutions of knowledge were created: museums were important at the start of the period (knowledge often meant classifying and collecting); by the end, universities had taken on a new prominence. Knowledge exploded and Victorians needed to make sense of the sheer scale of information, to popularize it, and at the same time to exclude ignorance and error - a role carried out by encyclopaedias and popular publications. The concept of knowledge is complex and much debated, with a multiplicity of meanings and troubling relationships.
By studying the Victorian organization of knowledge in its institutional, social, and intellectual settings, these essays contribute to our consideration of these wider issues.
Introduction ; Science in nineteenth-century England: plural configurations and singular politics ; Classifying sciences: systematics and status in mid-Victorian natural history ; Victorian social science: from singular to plural ; Political economy and the science of economics in Victorian Britain ; Reason and belief in Victorian mathematics ; Victorian classics: sustaining the study of the ancient world ; The evolution and dissemination of historical knowledge ; Specialization and social utility: disciplining English studies ; The organization of literary knowledge: the study of English in the late nineteenth century ; 'Old studies and new': the organization of knowledge in university curriculum ; The promotion and constraints of knowledge: the changing structure of publishing in Victorian Britain ; Libraries, knowledge and public identity ; Measuring the world: exploration, empire and the reform of the Royal Geographical Society, 1874-93 ; Civic cultures and civic colleges in Victorian England ; Intimacy, imagination and the inner dialetics of knowledge communities: the Synthetic Society, 1896-1908 ; The Academy abroad: the nineteenth-century origin of the British School at Athens ; The strange late birth of the British Academy