Antiquity in a world of change will explore how engagements with the past stimulated innovation and change in sixteenth-century England.
The study day marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of Sir Thomas Smith (1513-77). A series of speakers bring together, for the first time, new studies investigating the exceptional range of Smith’s activities, helping us to understand how the analysis of antiquity in the sixteenth-century provoked not only a desire for the recovery of the past, but also a critical and creative questioning of the present.
Speakers balance investigations of Smith’s scholarly studies with his practical engagements. An early proponent of the recovery of Greek language at Cambridge, Smith’s readings in Greek philosophy and medicine informed a view of the natural world which provoked practical undertakings in medical chemistry and alchemy. His early reading in Roman law suggests the beginnings of an engagement with Roman building, realized in his house at Hill Hall, witness to a rich complexity of cultural ambition and technical innovation.
One of the early English collectors of antique coins, Smith’s work on Roman, Greek, and early English money, directly informed his critical analysis of mid-sixteenth-century English economic and social distress. Wider questions of good governance – informed by his ambassadorial work in France and the Low Countries, as well as his study of ancient history – stimulated his examination of English monarchy, parliament, and magistracy. The De republica Anglorum remained influential after his death in 1577, but did his influence spread more widely? Speakers explore the ‘singularity’ of his architectural achievement in terms of developments in English building in the later sixteenth century, and the way that his intellectual and practical investigations can be tracked in the rich diversity which informed late-Elizabethan thinking from poetry to colonial schemes.
To book: Jola Zdunek
020 7479 7080.
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