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Popular science periodicals in Paris and London: The emergence of a low scientific culture, 1820–1875

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Efforts to diffuse useful knowledge on the part of dedicated social reformers, enterprising publishers, and vigorous voluntary associations created new forms of popular literature in the urban centres of Paris and London during the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Popular science periodicals, especially, embodied the aims of the advocates of cheap literature, by providing ‘improving' information at prices low enough to reach readers who might otherwise purchase potentially dangerous political tracts. Besides promoting social stability, popular science periodicals served to answer the needs of diverse increasingly literate, leisured, and well paid social groups. From their inception, through their evolution over half a century, periodicals in London and Paris mirrored these similar commitments and concerns of their creators. Continuous imitation back and forth across the Channel indicated just how closely English and French editors shared common programmes. Yet despite the similar aspirations of their promoters, popular science periodicals in England and France revealed the outlines of two very different low scientific cultures, shaped by the dissimilar characteristics of their audiences, editors, and high scientific communities.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Science and Human Affairs Programme, Concordia University, Sir George Williams Campus, 1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Montreal, Quebec, H3G 1M8, Canada

Publication date: 1985-11-01

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