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HOW SCIENTIFIC CONVERSATION BECAME SHOP TALK*

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Abstract

The expansion of print and the rise of specialist disciplines from the early nineteenth century are usually associated with a decline in informed conversation about the sciences and other forms of learning among the aristocracy, gentry and professional classes. Yet an extensive body of evidence suggests that the sciences remained a vital part of conversational culture in England at least through the 1860s. Ultimately, however, discussing specialist knowledge at parties became condemned as ‘talking shop’. This was not so much the result of changes within science, as is usually assumed, but was instead a byproduct of the increasing differentiation of roles throughout society. By the early twentieth century, scientific practitioners had created new places for broad-ranging talk about their subjects, most characteristically in the tea rooms attached to university laboratories.

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Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
  • ISSN: 0080-4401
  • EISSN: 1474-0648
  • URL: /core/journals/transactions-of-the-royal-historical-society
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