Intersecting Sets: John Venn, Church and University, 1834-1923

Clewlow, Michelle (2007). Intersecting Sets: John Venn, Church and University, 1834-1923. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ea2b

Abstract

This thesis is an examination of the religious and academic identities of John Venn (1834-1923), logician and biographer, explored by building up a picture of the series of family, religious and academic communities of which he was a part - from the institutional structures of the Church of England, Gonville and Caius College and the University of Cambridge, to more informal networks of friends and professions; and virtual communities of ideas and intellectual influence.

Venn was heir to a clerical, Evangelical dynasty, but his religious doubts led him to resign orders. He established instead an academic reputation through published works on probability and logic; and in later life concentrated upon historical and biographical researches. Venn's departure from Evangelicalism and his development as an academic is explained in terms of the real and virtual communities he 'inherited', such as the Venn family connexion, Evangelical theology and Church party; and those to which he 'acquired' membership, namely the academic networks signified by interactions with colleagues and mediated through journals, learned societies and the institutional structures of the University.

This biographical study of Venn is an entry point for examining broader historical themes in nineteenth century religion and academia; in particular, the development of mid-Victorian Evangelicalism, the course of University reform and the emergence of clerical and academic professional identities. It is also a case-study of religious doubt against which to compare the literature on crises of faith and the experiences of other sons of Evangelicalism, such as Leslie and Fitzjames Stephen and Henry Sidgwick.

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