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'Why do entomologists want a weekly newspaper?': periodicals and the practice of nineteenth-century natural history

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‘Why do entomologists want a weekly newspaper?’ was a question posed by the first issue of the Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer in April 1856. Established and edited by the eminent entomologist Henry Tibbats Stainton, this was the first weekly periodical dedicated to the study of insects. Stainton pointed to the advantages of such a publication, citing speed and efficiency of communication, surpassing the slower and more laborious task of personal correspondence. To this end, the bulk of the Intelligencer’s contents consisted of notes and observations received from a host of insect collectors around the country, establishing an entomological community unprecedented in size and scope. The nineteenth century saw a rapid increase in the number of periodicals dedicated to the varying branches of natural history, and this paper will seek to address the wider implications of this through detailed study of the Intelligencer. It will draw upon Stainton’s extensive correspondence archive, in addition to the periodical itself, in order to demonstrate the complex relationship between the periodical and the practice of natural history, focusing on such activities as field work, collecting and correspondence. Particular attention will be given to the ways in which such periodicals allowed for much wider participation in the creation and circulation of scientific knowledge, with Stainton himself actively encouraging the pursuit of entomology amongst the working-classes.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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