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Author Professor Michael Wheeler on writing The Athenaeum: More Than Just Another Club


Filmed primarily in the Drawing Room of the Athenaeum, Member Professor Michael Wheeler talks about his recent book “The Athenaeum: More Than Just Another Club” — how it was commissioned, planned, researched, written and published.

This video will be followed by a Zoom discussion with the author on 8th October 2020. When it finishes, please click on the Zoom link that Christina will have sent you on 5th October.

The Athenaeum: More Than Just Another London Club, published by Yale University Press on 22nd September 2020, is a compelling history of the Club and its Members’ impact on Britain’s scientific, creative, and official life.

When it was founded in 1824, the Athenaeum broke the mould. Unlike in other pre-eminent clubs, its members were chosen on the basis of their achievements rather than on their background or political affiliation. Public rather than private life dominated the agenda. The club, with its tradition of hospitality to conflicting views, has attracted leading scientists, writers, artists, and intellectuals throughout its history, including Charles Darwin and Matthew Arnold, Edward Burne-Jones and Yehudi Menuhin, Winston Churchill and Gore Vidal.

This book is not presented in the traditional, insular style of club histories, but devotes attention to the influence of Athenians on the scientific, creative, and official life of the nation. From the unwitting recruitment of a Cold War spy to the welcome admittance of women, this lively and original account explores the corridors and characters of the club; its wider political, intellectual, and cultural influence; and its recent reinvention.

Michael Wheeler was director of the project to build the Ruskin Library at Lancaster University and is now a Visiting Professor at the University of Southampton. Among his books are Heaven, Hell, and the Victorians and Ruskin’s God.

Reviews:
‘Wheeler plays at the top of his game in this history of a national institution, and in his account of the brilliant intellects, the innovators, the dissidents and the world authorities who have been its members over the course of two centuries.’—Richard Davenport-Hines

‘A scholarly account, by an insider, of a private London club, an establishment niche which allows for eccentricity. The membership has always included enough of the most eminent people of the time, from politicians to poets, to create a discreet safe haven where private and public life converge. Wheeler reveals the Athenaeum as a significant funny-bone in the anatomy of Britain.’—Victoria Glendinning

(The Athenaeum: More Than Just Another London Club – ISBN: 978-0300246773 – £35)

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