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Events Speculative Minds: Commerce, Experiment, Innovation & the Arts in Georgian Ireland online symposium

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Speculative Minds: Commerce, Experiment, Innovation & the Arts in Georgian Ireland online symposium

27.05.2021, 09:30 A.M.

Image: Portrait of James Tassie (1781) by David Allan, Scottish National Portrait Gallery.


Maynooth University and the Irish Georgian Society are partnering to deliver a live online symposium, Speculative Minds: Commerce, Experiment, Innovation & the Arts in Georgian Ireland on Thursday 27th May 2021. The symposium has been convened by Dr Toby Barnard, Emeritus Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford University and Dr Alison FitzGerald, Associate Professor, Maynooth University.

The symposium will appeal to both a specialist audience of academics and the general public.

Price: €40 (full time students can register for a free place by emailing a photo of your student ID to

Download the full programme


The period between 1750 and 1837 saw a striking increase in the introduction of new materials, new manufacturing processes and new products. ‘Novelty’ was at a premium: touted in newspaper advertisements, puffed in trade catalogues and pattern books, and encouraged by energetic individuals and learned groups. These initiatives were driven by simple curiosity, focused experimentation, patriotic and humanitarian ideals, and the quest for profit. Homes, small workshops and large manufactories all felt the impact of these ‘polite and commercial’ impulses and the resulting artefacts; they spread beyond the peerage and landed elite through the professional and middling sorts. Arguably it was the latter who spread these developments most widely, thereby drawing Ireland deeper into the ambit, attitudes and fashions of Britain, continental Europe and the North Atlantic world. British artists, artificers and entrepreneurs were quick to exploit the Irish market, feeding the appetite for what was new; as the potter Josiah Wedgwood wrote to his business partner in 1773 ‘Will not the people of Ireland like these things better that come from London?’. This symposium investigates the intellectual, cultural and mercenary forces behind these phenomena, looking closely at specific cases. It aims to clarify the nexus between art, commerce and science in Georgian Ireland, especially in towns, most notably in Dublin, Britain’s ‘second city’.

Speculative Minds will be chaired by David Fleming, Head of Department of History, University of Limerick with papers by: Toby Barnard, MRIA (Hon.), Emeritus Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford University; Alison, FitzGerald, Associate Professor, Department of History, Maynooth University; James Kelly, MRIA, Professor of History, and Head of the School of History and Geography, Dublin City University; Leonie Hannan, Senior Lecturer, Department of History, Queen’s University Belfast; Finola O’Kane, MRIA, Professor, School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy, University College Dublin and Jonathan Wright, Lecturer, Department of History, Maynooth University.


Speculative Minds has been made possible through sponsorship from Ecclesiastical Insurance and Sara Moorhead.

The symposium forms an action of the Irish Georgian Society’s Conservation Education Programme. The Society's Conservation Education Programme is supported by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, The Heritage Council and Merrion Property Group.

Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage
The Heritage Council
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