Saturday, April 28, 2012

PEER-reviewed in the heyday of the EDINBURGH REVIEW

   In the 1830s, the heyday of the dreaded QUARTERLY REVIEWS, before the removal of Stamp Taxes on printed matter and before the Reform Acts, any new ideas - ideas of any sort, not just scientific ideas - were first peer-reviewed before reaching the reading public.
  No, make that PEER-reviewed. As in reviewed by members of the Peerage, members of the House of Lords.

   Real Peers, lords and such,  were the actual writers behind the semi-anonymous review-essays from all the powerful journals, such as the famous Edinburgh Review.
   The Reviews were so powerful in forming opinion it was said they caused the deaths of poets and others they did not like.
   This is true : it is well known from private letters and public comments that many of the educated people in Britain and its Empire placed these Reviews just behind the Word of God in the Bible for reliability.
   The Reviews divided the world in half - Tory versus Liberal - and customers bought the review that supported their world view.
   Bought them because while the reviews simply repeated their customers' existing opinions, they amplified them in such a witty and biting way that the reader got not just new ammunition and education out of them , but entertainment as well.
   Bile mostly - but such amusing bile !
   (Rather like ourselves entertaining and informing ourselves by reading just DENIER or DOOMER blogs.)
   So in this shiny new democratic Age of Romanticism, Peers still told Commoners what to think and how to act, in the best approved manner of the Classical Age.
   These Reviews were the start of the Counter Romantic Reaction.
  This reaction was against the threat to 'the aristocracy of rules and norms ' of the untutored, un-peer-reviewed  Genius, as thrown up by the Romantic theory.
   The Counter/Contra reaction that we now like to think of as the Age of Modernity.
  When it was actually the exact opposite : the 18th century in reprise, disguised in 20th century clothes .....

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