|Villa "La Rotonda"in Vicenza|
Among the Seminar's eminent founders were Peter Gay, Rudolf Wittkower, and James Clifford, all Columbia professors. For a talk I gave on the history of the 18th-century Seminar on February 5, I did a little research in the Seminar's archives. The early presentations centered around the concept of "Enlightenment." In going through the minutes of early meetings, I discovered that one trend of the Seminar has been a move from "big ideas" to "culture studies," with the latter focusing on very narrow aspects of material life in the 18th century. This trend represents a larger trend in 18th-century studies generally. In the opening roundtable the historian Isser Woloch described the transition in Norton anthologies from a concentration on "Kings and Philosophers" in the 1960s, to more recent presentations of the 18th century as "dynamic." Thus, a focus on population studies, religious life, the slave trade, private lives, including the role of women, and so on.