Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Compendium of Knowledge 1793

A neat idea - has posted a list of what was considered general knowledge in 1793, as compiled by a Harvard College librarian. Although Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations had appeared in 1776, economics was not yet a separate field of study. Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments appears under Ethics below.

There was a time when "knowledge" could be encompassed by one person. That idea is associated with Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol College, Oxford from 1870, who became Vice Chancellor of Oxford in 1882. (Adam Smith is perhaps the best-known alumnus of Balliol.) To him is commonly attributed the quote "I am the Master of this College, What I don't know isn't knowledge." The source is actually a poem attributed to Henry Charles Beeching and probably written by several mischievous and clever undergraduates at Balliol.
First come I. My name is J–W–TT (Jowett)
There's no knowledge but I know it
I am the Master of this College,
What I don't know isn't knowledge. 

- H. C. Beeching, "Masque of B-ll--l" (1881).
I. Sacred History
II. Ecclesiastical History
III. Civil History: Including Biography
IV. Natural History
V. Voyages and Travels
VI. Geography and Topography

I. Theology
II. Mythology
III. Ethics; or the Moral System in General
IV. Grammars, Dictionaries
V. Logic, Rhetoric and Criticism
VI. General and Local Politics
VII. Law
VIII. Metaphysics
IX. Arithmetic, Geometry and Algebra
X. Natural and Experimental Philosophy: Including Astronomy
XI. Chymistry
XII. Agriculture
XIII. Arts and Manufactures

I. Poetry and the Drama
II. Works of Fiction
III. The Fine Arts