Marilyn A. Lewis on “‘Christ’s College and the Latitude-Men’ Revisited: A Seminary of Heretics?”

Marjorie Nicolson’s 1929 article, ‘Christ’s College and the Latitude-Men’ characterized the quarrel between Ralph Widdrington and the Cambridge Platonists Henry More and Ralph Cudworth as ‘the enmity of the fundamentalist for the liberal’. Widdrington called More and Cudworth ‘latitude-men’ and described the college as ‘a seminary of Heretics’. This article revisits the dispute by presenting a group biography of the Christ’s College fellowship between 1644 and 1669, showing More as an academic networker attracting students to his version of Platonism and Cudworth in action as a college head managing fellowship elections to build up support against Widdrington. The argument will be advanced that Widdrington’s opposition revealed the reality of a group of Platonic philosophical theologians at Christ’s College, as opposed to their mere reification by later admiring historians, thus challenging the doubts concerning the existence of Cambridge Platonism which have been asserted in recent historiography.

Marilyn A. Lewis, “‘Christ’s College and the Latitude-Men’ Revisited: A Seminary of Heretics?,” Mordechai Feingold, ed., History of Universities Volume XXXIII/1. Oxford University Press, 2020. ISBN: 9780198865421.

The Cambridge Platonism Sourcebook

The Cambridge Platonism Project at Cambridge University has completed the first comprehensive collection of texts from Conway, Cudworth, More, Smith, and Whichcote; the Cambridge Platonism Sourcebook.

The digital Cambridge Platonism Sourcebook consists of over 1,100,000 words of texts selected from across the oeuvre of the core group of Cambridge Platonists Anne Conway (1631-1679), Ralph Cudworth (1617-1688), Henry More (1614-1687), John Smith (1618-1652) and Benjamin Whichcote (1609-1683), making available both important printed and manuscript sources illustrating the range of their thinking. It also makes available a significant quantity of recondite texts and manuscript material never seen outside the British Library. It constitutes a groundbreaking collection of texts, several of which are translated from Latin with extensive explanatory notes and made easily available for the first time.

As well as containing sizable excerpts from the printed works of Cudworth and More, the Sourcebook contains the full text of Conway’s Principia (1690) and its 1692 English translation, as well as extensive excerpts from the British Library Cudworth manuscripts, including a draft version of the introduction to the unpublished second part of Cudworth’s True Intellectual System of the Universe (a draft probably written c. 1671). It contains the Latin texts and first complete English translation of Henry More’s letter correspondence with Descartes, together with other important but previously untranslated works by More, including More’s critique of Jacob Boehme in his Philosophiae Teutonicae censura (1679). The Sourcebook also contains John Smith’s complete Select Discourses (1660) and the complete text of an influential set of letters between Whichcote and Antony Tuckney (written 1651; published 1753).

The texts are accompanied by extensive critical introductory materials and network diagrams which situate them in their historical and intellectual contexts. The texts are fully browsable and searchable. The site also contains a full bibliography of Cambridge Platonism, as well as a blog which carries updates on developments in Cambridge Platonism scholarship and offers a forum for scholars to contribute their input and ideas.

Ralph Cudworth at the Crossroads of Modernity

A British Academy funded conference devoted to the sources, reception, and thought of the Cambridge Platonist Ralph Cudworth.
Centre for the Study of Platonism Fellow Dr. Adrian Mihai hosted the conference ‘Ralph Cudworth at the Crossroads of Modernity’, 11 March 2019, with funds won as part of his post-doctoral fellowship from The British Academy. The Conference, which coincides with Dr. Mihai’s critical edition of Ralph Cudworth’s The True Intellectual System of the Universe, forthcoming with Brepols, traced both the sources and influence of Ralph Cudworth’s thought. Click here for the event’s programme.