Conference Announcement: ‘Guarding Innocence’

Guarding Innocence: Moral Protectionism in Nineteenth Century Britain and America
3-4 September 2010
St Catharine’s College
University of Cambridge

This inter-disciplinary conference will explore 19th century concerns about the power of ‘negative’ moral influences upon individuals and society. It will attempt to document the attention paid to the perceived dangers of moral corruption, to describe how ‘innocence’ was conceptualized as a moral category, and to understand its cultural, philosophical, and religious underpinnings. The keynote address will be given by Dr. Rochelle Gurstein (Repeal of Reticence, 1996), and will look at the manner in which new ‘agents of exposure’ challenged the ‘reticent sensibility’ from 1850.

The conference will seek to shed light both on the conservative consolidation characteristic of the changes in public morality in the early part of the century, and also the way that this consolidation was reshaped and contested in the ensuing decades.

Presentations will include: ‘Preventing bad habits: Dugald Stewart on moral education’; ‘The free lovers’ challenge to Mr. Comstock and Mrs. Grundy’; ‘Christian humanist antecedents of early Victorian advice literature’; ‘Innocence in the family: The morality of intimacy in Victorian England’; ‘The English criminal courts, sexual activity between women and the protection of female “innocence”’; and ‘The ethic of innocence: A conceptual map’. The conference will end with a round-table discussion led by Prof. Peter Mandler (Cambridge).

Conference fees: £40 (full rate), £20 (postgrad student). Registration deadline: 20 August.
For registration form please e-mail or find the conference under ‘Events listing’ at the IHR website (

This conference is made possible by funding from the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge.


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