Thomas Pennant and Enlightenment Networks

A One-Day Research Workshop, Saturday 12th September, University of Glasgow

Location: School of Critical Studies, Room 202, 4 University Gardens

Conveners: Prof Nigel Leask (University of Glasgow) and Dr Mary-Ann Constantine (CAWCS, University of Wales, Aberystwyth)

Registration for non-speakers £10 (£5 concessions)

You can register at the workshop, but space is limited, so please contact Alex Deans if you wish to attend.

The Workshop is Part of the four year AHRC-funded research project Curious Travellers: Thomas Pennant and the Welsh and Scottish Tour, 1760-1820 based jointly in CAWCS, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and the School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow.

By the time of his Scottish (1769 and 1772) and Welsh (1773) tours, Thomas Pennant was known as a naturalist and the author of British Zoology (1761-66) and Synopsis of Quadrupeds (1771). He had also established a national and international network of learned correspondents, including Sir Joseph Banks, Karl Linnaeus, Peter Simon Pallas, Gronovius, Gilbert White of Selbourne, and Richard Gough. Pennant’s tours are representative of his omnivorous style and interdisciplinary range: he was a renowned antiquarian and a competent historian, art critic and agriculturalist as well as a naturalist. Perhaps for this reason, although frequently cited as witness or authority in other studies, especially on the natural and social history of Scotland and Wales, his texts have rarely been addressed in their own right. Pennant’s ambition was to combine the personal authority of the informed traveller’s eye with the encyclopaedic protocols of enlightenment knowledge making, and his correspondence reveals the extent to which his travel books were based on a laborious process of data collection both ‘in the field’, and at his Flintshire home at Downing. Pennant was also the first domestic traveller to provide extensive visual documentation of his tours, commissioning (or offering patronage) to artists like Paul Sandby, Charles Cordiner, and most famously, his ‘servant artist’ Moses Griffith. The workshop will address Pennant’s Enlightenment networks, with a special focus on natural history and antiquarianism, topographical drawing, and epistolary culture.




9.30 am

Tea/Coffee and Registration, Room 202, 4 University Gardens

10 – 10.15 am

Welcome and Introduction (Nigel Leask and Mary-Ann Constantine)

10.30 am – 12.30 pm

Session 1: Topography and Visual Culture

Murdo Macdonald, ‘Pennant and Charles Cordiner’

John Bonehill, Views of the estate in Thomas Pennant’s Tour of Scotland: picturing ‘His Lordship’s policy’

Ailsa Hutton, ‘Pennant and Moses Griffith’

 12.30 – 1.30 pm

Lunch Break

 1.30 – 3.00 pm

Session 2: Cultures of Epistolarity

Miranda Lewis, ‘Early Modern Letters Online: Networking the Republic of Letters’

Alex Deans, Mark Herraghty, Ffion Mair Jones (Project RAs), ‘Editing Pennant’s Correspondence on the Curious Travellers Project’

 3.00 – 3.30 pm


 3.30 – 5.30 pm

Session 3: Natural History and Antiquities

Dominik Huenniger, ‘Collections, Fish Markets, and Mines: Johann Christian Fabricius’ Travels and the Making of Natural History’

Andrew Prescott, ‘The British Networks of Grímur Jónsson Thorkelín’

Donald William Stewart, ‘Pennant and Rev. Donald MacQueen of Kilmuir’

6.15 pm

Dinner for Speakers




Dr John Bonehill is Lecturer in the History of Art in the School of Culture and Creative Arts, University of Glasgow.

Dr Mary-Ann Constantine is Senior Fellow in the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, University of Wales, and PI of Curious Travellers.

Dr Alex Deans is RA on Curious Travellers based in the School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow.

Mark Herraghty is RA and Web Developer on the Curious Travellers Project, School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow.

Dr Dominik Huenniger is Managing Director of the
Lichtenberg-Kolleg – the Göttingen Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences. He was Hunterian Fellow at the University of Glasgow 2015.

Ailsa Hutton is a final year Ph.D. student in History of Art at the University of Glasgow.

Prof Nigel Leask is Regius Chair of English Language and Literature, School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow, and CI of Curious Travellers.

Miranda Lewis is Digital Editor on the Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO) project, University of Oxford.

Prof Murdo Macdonald is Chair of History of Scottish Art, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee.

Dr Ffion Mair Jones is RA on ‘Curious Travellers’ Project based in CAWCS, University of Wales.

Prof Andrew Prescott is Chair of Digital Humanities, School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow.

Dr Donald William Stewart is Senior Lecturer at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (University of the Highlands and Islands).