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Database Methodology for The Parish Revolution

This research project aims to disseminate its findings through an interlinked scholarly monograph, trade book, series of public talks, and a database. While the books and talks will be the most accessible outputs, the project is underpinned by a database. The aim is to make that database, once it contains enough useful data, publically available. This will be rolled out as the project develops and, if time and funds permit, will ultimately be moved to a dedicated, fully searchable website.

At this stage, to encourage public and scholarly particpation, I am sharing some basic information as I compile the database. For the moment, I have made available a browseable list of over a thousand clerical naturalists which can be viewed in alphabetical order or in chronological order. This list is already fairly substantial, but I expect to add to it regularly. To illustrate the data that will be available from the database when the project is more advanced, I have created sample pages for William Derham, William Turner, and Gilbert White.

Individuals in the Database

At the time of writing (January 2024), there are 1010 individuals in the database. In many cases, all I have at this stage is a name, birth and death dates, and some notes on sources. These data were collated from the small number of printed and online sources that identify an individual both as a naturalist and as a cleric, broadly defined. I have included:

  • Clerical naturalists from all Christian denominations active in the British Isles and British Empire. The majority are Anglicans, but Roman Catholic, Church of Scotland, Baptist, and Methodist ministers also figure prominently. I have also included Quaker naturalists
  • The individuals are overwhelmingly male, but I have included women naturalists who were also closely connected to clergymen, usually but not exclusively through marriage.
  • Although my current project is focused on the period 1660-1859, I have included in the database individuals from all historical periods. I have not included living clerical naturalists.
  • I include clerical naturalists interested in most branches of the life sciences and earth sciences as well as those with an interest in horticultural or agricultural science. I have also included natural theologians even if they did little or no fieldwork.
My initial main sources were:
  • Patrick Armstrong, The English Parson-naturalist: A Companionship Between Science and Religion (Leominster: Gracewing, 2000)
  • John Challinor, The History of British Geology: A Bibliographical Study (Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1971)
  • Ray Desmond, Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturists: Including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers, 2nd Edition (London: Taylor & Francis, 1994)
  • D.H Kent and D.E. Allen, eds, British and Irish Herbaria: An Index to the Location of Herbaria of British and Irish Vascular Plants (London: Botanical Society of the British Isles, 1984)
  • Quakers in Action: Science
  • From January 2024, I am adding in all Associates and Fellows of the Linnean Society whose name in the published annual List of the Linnean Society of London is prefixed with 'Rev.'. The published lists are quite extensive and I am adding names in chronological order, but this may take some time to complete.
I aim to add more sources over time. I also welcome suggestions for individuals to include in the database. Please get in touch

Database Contents

Beyond basic information, the database will mainly provide references and links to primary and secondary sources, both printed and online. The aim is to help researchers to locate information about an individual, rather than providing all the information directly. The database contains data in the following areas:

  • Basic personal data (dates and places of birth, spouse)
  • Basic professional data (church, highest position held, intellectual interests)
  • Geographical information (main location and up to two other locations)
  • References to standard printed sources (Armstrong, Bridson, Desmond, Kent and Allen) and any other significant source
  • Links to key online sources (Biodiversity Heritage Library, Clergy of the Church of England Database, Herbaria@Home, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Wikipedia)
  • Main publications
  • Locations of significant archives or collections

Status and Accessibility

At present, the data in the database are rather patchy and there would be only limited utility in making it searchable. When the database is more complete, and time and funding willing, I aim to migrate this project to a fully searchable standalone website. In the meantime, I welcome enquiries about any of the individuals I have identified.

This is an ongoing research project and these pages will be regularly updated.


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