Enfilade

A World without the Wellcome?

Posted in resources by Editor on May 25, 2010

From the Editor

As a former research associate at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, I’m as dismayed as anyone at the recent announcement that the Centre will be closing. The Wellcome has played an immensely valuable role for scholars across multiple disciplines, including art history. Thanks in part to the importance of Roy Porter for the Centre (and of course the importance of the Enlightenment for the history of medicine), the Wellcome has provided valuable institutional support for the field of eighteenth-century studies generally. The announcement also raises questions about the fate of the Wellcome Library, which includes an unrivaled collection of visual resources, much of which has been available online (reassurances have been made, but it’s difficult for me to imagine the Library without the Centre; at the very least, its mission would change).* For more information, see the announcement at the UCL website, a brief article at The Times Higher Education, and this editorial from the Telegraph. I hope you’ll consider signing the following petition.

-Craig Hanson

To:  UCL/The Wellcome Trust

On March 31st the Wellcome Trust and UCL announced the closure of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine. This decision came in the middle of negotiations concerning the normal quinquennial review of funding for the Centre. The proposal to close the Centre was made by a handful of persons within the Wellcome Trust without, as far as is known, the involvement of any historian of medicine. We call upon the Trust to reconsider its decision, reinstate the independent peer review process, and permit any subsequent Centre to remain within the Wellcome building. We call upon UCL to maintain the history of medicine as a visible entity within College serving both historians and medics.

* N.B. –– Regarding the fate of the Library, please see this posting, added 26 May 2010.

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Roy Porter Memorial Lecture by Quentin Skinner, Political Liberty: The Enlightenment Debate
Wellcome Building, 183 Euston Road, London, 26 May 2010

With the announcement of the closure of the Centre by UCL and the Wellcome Trust, and the uncertainty regarding the precise details of the two-year wind-down, the 2010 Roy Porter Memorial lecture will be the last. Professor Quentin Skinner will talk on Political Liberty: The Enlightenment Debate, a subject Roy would have particularly enjoyed.

Jeremy Bentham announced in 1776 that he had made a ‘discovery’ about the concept of liberty. John Lind put forward a similar view in his official response to the Declaration of Independence, but Lind was persuaded (not least by Bentham himself) to accept that Bentham had been the first to articulate the argument. Bentham’s view was primarily directed against the pamphlets of the common lawyer Richard Hey, while Lind’s was more ambitiously directed against the pro-American writings of Richard Price. The lecture begins by examining the background to the theory that Lind denounced, and then turns to examine the background to the rival theory that he and Bentham both espoused. As the latter discussion unfolds, a doubt about Bentham’s claims to originality begins to arise. The lecture ends by suggesting that the earliest articulation of the theory that he claimed as his own was in fact the work of Thomas Hobbes.

The lecture will be held on May 26th in the Wellcome Building, 183 Euston Road. Attendance is free on receipt of an e-ticket which may be obtained by emailing: hom-events@ucl.ac.uk.

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