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Collecting, conservation and conservatism: late twentieth century developments in the culture of British geology

Simon J. Knell
Simon J. Knell
Department of Museum Studies, 105 Princess Road East, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7LG, UK
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January 01, 2002


The last three decades of the twentieth century saw a transformation of the place and influence in British society of two cultural themes: environmental conservation and the values of political conservatism. These are here used to examine cultural change in the science of geology at two levels of resolution. First, the micropolitics of the science are revealed through a study of collecting in an era of conservation. Here the scientific hegemony confronted the more populist and commercially driven wings of geology. This was a period of campaign and conflict, leading to the eventual accommodation of opposing views. The second section examines the macropolitics of the science's institutional infrastructure through a study of a science in a period of recession and under the control of an ideologically motivated Conservative government. The challenge for science was to acquire appropriate government patronage. Here patterns of decline and growth in the science are revealed, driven by supposedly 'external' factors. Both perspectives show how the notion of accountability became critical to the science at all levels, and how, in an era which saw the revolutionizing of mass communication, language became fundamental to the political progress of the science.

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Figures & Tables


Geological Society, London, Special Publications

The Earth Inside and Out: Some Major Contributions to Geology in the Twentieth Century

David R. Oldroyd
David R. Oldroyd
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Geological Society of London
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Publication date:
January 01, 2002




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