British antiquarian societies  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
antiquarian, William Hamilton

The Society of Antiquaries of London was formed in the 18th century to promote the study of antiquities. As early as 1572 a society had been founded by Bishop Matthew Parker, Sir Robert Cotton, William Camden and others for the preservation of national antiquities. This body existed till 1604, when it fell under suspicion of being political in its aims, and was abolished by King James I. Papers read at their meetings are preserved in the Cottonian library and were printed by Thomas Hearne in 1720 under the title A Collection of Curious Discourses, a second edition appearing in 1771.

In 1707 a number of English antiquaries began to hold regular meetings for the discussion of their hobby and in 1717 the Society of Antiquaries was formally reconstituted, finally receiving a charter from King George II in 1751. In 1780 King George III granted the society apartments in Somerset House in The Strand. The society was governed by a council of twenty and a president who is ex officio a trustee of the British Museum.

The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland was founded in 1780 and had the management of a large national antiquarian museum in Edinburgh. In Ireland a society was founded in 1849 called the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, holding its meetings at Kilkenny. In 1869 its name was changed to the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland, and in 1890 to the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, its office being transferred to Dublin. In France La Société Nationale des Antiquaires de France was formed in 1814 by the reconstruction of the Acadêmie Celtique, which had existed since 1805. The American Antiquarian Society was founded in 1812, with its headquarters at Worcester, Massachusetts. It had a library of upwards of 100,000 volumes and its transactions have been published bi-annually since 1820. In Germany the Gesamtverein der Deutschen Geschichts und Altertumsvereine was founded in 1852. La Société Royale des Antiquaires du Nord at Copenhagen was among the best known of European antiquarian societies.

In his essay Untimely Meditations, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche examines three forms of history. One of these is antiquarian history, a form of history aimed at creating a feeling of connection to one's history. Nietzsche's philosophy of history had a significant impact on critical history in the 20th century.

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