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The intellectual and social declines of alchemy and astrology, circa 1650-1720

Clements, John (2017) The intellectual and social declines of alchemy and astrology, circa 1650-1720. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

By the early decades of the eighteenth century alchemy and astrology had ceased to be considered respectable or credible by elite society. Astrology had been removed from university curricula, while alchemy largely ceased to be publicly practised by the educated and respected and became regarded by those of elite status to be little more than a tool for charlatans or quacks. This thesis draws out these twin declines and considers them in parallel, focusing on trying to analyse what changed intellectually and socially within England to so dramatically alter the fates of these arts. There is a scholarly tradition which has discussed the declines of alchemy and astrology as part of a broader notion of a decline in ‘occult practices’ or ‘magic’, an idea which is often twinned with the wider notion of a ‘rise of science’. This thesis will therefore consider alchemy and astrology as connected arts, which nevertheless possessed separate identities, and then analyse these arts’ declines alongside each other. Through this process it will explore to what degree and in what ways one can describe the declines of these arts as part of one unified trend, or if one needs to interpret these declines as purely grounded in their own unique circumstances. By utilising the works of alchemical and astrological practitioners and placing the decline of these arts in a longer historical context this thesis studies what those who practised the arts considered to be their core conceptual components and will therefore analyse how these elements were changed or challenged by intellectual developments that occurred in the second half of the seventeenth century. This is coupled with a wider analysis of academic and literary works which discussed these arts, which will be used to consider their social positions and how the events across the period in question affected and shaped perceptions of alchemy and astrology and their acceptability to early modern people.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.745779
Depositing User: Mr John Clements
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2018 08:22
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:24
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20821

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