Community and its Limits, 1745-1832

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Welcome to Community and its Limits, 1745–1832, a conference at the University of Leeds hosted by the School of English in association with the Leeds Library, and generously supported by the British Association for Romantic Studies.

The conference took place on Friday 4 and Saturday 5 September 2015. We’re very grateful to everyone who came, and who helped to make the two days so stimulating and enjoyable with their expert papers, incisive questions, and convivial company.

These pages give the details of the conference, and (under ‘Theme’) of the broader ongoing project of which it formed a part.


A community needs limits: someone has to be in, and someone has to be out. What defined the limits of cultural communities—communities of writers and radicals, of artists and improvers, of faith and taste—in the long Romantic period? The theme of community has recently been powerfully invigorating for studies of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century literature and culture. What limits are there to that approach?

Community and its Limits will explore the making, preservation, and breaking of group identities in Enlightenment and Romantic Britain, across a chronological range from Charles Wesley and David Hume to Elizabeth Fry and Thomas Love Peacock, and across a geographical range from Canada to Italy via (among other places) the Mendip Hills, London, and the battlefields of Culloden and Waterloo.

As well as investigating communities’ temporal and spatial boundaries, Community and its Limits will reflect on critical methods for the study of social networks. Are ‘communities’ different from coteries, factions, or circles, for instance? The conference’s special focus will be on the prickly side of community: on the ways in which creative and political communities could succeed or fail in negotiating discord.

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