1830's Ground Zero?

Steveash5

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#1
While doing some other Fortean research it has struck me that Forteana and the paranormal has a starting point. Maybe 1830, certainly late 1820s.

Yes, I know these things have always been reported, but look at Forts records and you see they really take off about now. And the first recorded Bigfoot AND BVM all appear in the 1830's, as well as, arguably, the first UFO's concieved as ET, and a few other classics.

This may be due to increased reporting due to technical advances in printing, but I think there's something more, certainly before 1820 Britain was still a religious and superstitious country. It was only in 1830 that Darwin was researching his theories of evolution. While by the 1830s the age of Science was born and the normal had an exception. Before this the supernatural was rare but normal and explicable. It also seems more in the mould of folklore than factual reporting.

So the 1830's seem a grey area between the two when the 'Fortean' is becoming possible and categories being developed. Which for me makes it a facinating time.

Steve
 

Philo_T

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#2
Fort drew a lot of his 'damned data' from newspaper and journal reports.

I assume that the increasing prevalnce of newspapers during that period had a lot to do with that aspect of the phenomena.
 

lemonpie3

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#3
Not disputing your idea that 1830 might be the zero date of Forteana; but I would have thought the age of Science started with the Enlightenment in the 18th Century?
 

Steveash5

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#4
lemonpie said:
Not disputing your idea that 1830 might be the zero date of Forteana; but I would have thought the age of Science started with the Enlightenment in the 18th Century?
That's what I thought till I started to do this particular research. But I think the point to differentiate is when the scientific model of reality becomes the paradigm of the normal amongst the general public, as opposed to amongst an educated minority. Then the culturally accepted categories of 'abnormal' or 'paranormal' contain the things that defy scientific knowledge. Before that ghosts might be accepted as 'normal manifestations of spirits' say, despite what those 'toffs' in universities were saying. Hence there's nothing mysterious about them till they don't fit our paradigm. I think Fort was a very interesting philosopher of science at heart.

This public paradigm shift seems to occur differently in different places too, partly attributable to the impact of science dependent technologies on
different cultures. Though there are other factors too, for instance Science essentially becomes widely accepted in France after the French Revolution and the transformation of its education system. However these changes in France, and other popular French ideas, do not catch on in an England at war with France and resistant to 'radical ideas'. Its not till after the 1810's ,when the Napoleanic Wars have ended, and relations with France normalising that some of these ideas begin to cross the channel in a popular way (again outside of educated elites). Thus for instance Mesmerism also arrives in Britain for the first time in the 1830's, even though it was popular in France long before the French Revolution.
 

Steveash5

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#5
Philo T said:
Fort drew a lot of his 'damned data' from newspaper and journal reports.

I assume that the increasing prevalnce of newspapers during that period had a lot to do with that aspect of the phenomena.
Thats certainly part of it, but it does seem that some phenomena didn't even exist in folklore before then, such as the Virgin Mary visions and Bigfoot (true there's the Amerind Sasquatch tales, but there representations of its appearance are very different and may not have originally been the same thing at all) .
 

Philo_T

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#6
Good points about the general public adopting a "scientific mindset".

Science doesn't very often countenance that something can be unknowable. So things that had been accepted as being mysteries now had to either be : a) explained, b) explained away or c) rejected. So these anomolies that science rejects now become notable, where pre-science, they were common-place.
 

Steveash5

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#7
Philo T said:
Good points about the general public adopting a "scientific mindset".

Science doesn't very often countenance that something can be unknowable. So things that had been accepted as being mysteries now had to either be : a) explained, b) explained away or c) rejected. So these anomolies that science rejects now become notable, where pre-science, they were common-place.
Yes, exactly :)
 
A

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#8
Thomas Kuhn in his highly-influentual The Structure of Scientific Revolutions said that anomaly can only arise against the background of a paradigm; one must have a system of conceptual categories upon which to base a taxonomic ordering of the world. Kuhn's historiography of science showed that science has applied many such categorical systems onto the world and some work better than others: however, there is always an 'essential tension' between our representations of the world and the reality of that world. This tension manifests in an increasing number of ever-problematic anomalies; these can be called 'anomalies,' 'abberations,' 'deviations' or, more broadly, 'the paranormal.' Once the categorical systems of science in its disciplines began to establish throughout the nineteenth century, partly thanks to positivist science, there was an increasing basis for the exclusion of paranormal phenomena.

Ian
 

byroncac

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#9
Apologies for not yet finding the source but I'm sure I've read that Fort set date perameters for his research, from somewhere in the 1820's until shortly after the Great War. Sorry for being so vague.

I think the reason for 1830 seemingly being a 'Fortean Ground Zero' is partly due to this being Forts start point in his research, the rise in newspapers, literacy and the postal service. (Also ground zero of the Information Age?).
 
A

Anonymous

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#10
Fort's research parameters

Fort describes his research parameters in WT ch13:

A search for the unexplained became an obsession. I undertook the job going through all scientific periodicals, at least by way of indexes, published in English and French, from the year 1800, available in the libraries of New York and London. [...] By the time I got through with the "grand tour", as I called this search for all available periodicals, to distinguish it from special investigations, I was interested in so many subjects that had cropped up later, or that I had missed earlier, that I made the tour all over again -- and then again had the same experience, and had to go touring again -- and so on [...] and in later years I have multiplied my subjects by very much shifting to newspapers
Though we could assume that Fort had read older works (such as Newton's Principia of 1687 since he refers to it) I doubt that Fort had any need to go back any further than 1800 for data since, as he says, there was so much of it to be had within his post-1800 limit. As Forteans have shown since, there is a vast mass of material before that, but Fort was more interested in what for him was 'contemporary material.' One of Fort's purposes was to demonstrate the regularity of the phenomena he discusses and his data was ample enough for there to be no need to regress further. Colin Bennett in his IanPolitics of the Imagination (don't have it to hand so no reference, sorry) also suggests that Fort, like many of his time, mistrusted the past; I think that he simply had no need to go back further.

Ian
 

byroncac

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#11
Thanks Iankidd; been trying to find that for the past few days!

A second thought is that Fort gave a mid neneteenth century year as one being packed full of weirdness, a "Fortean Zeitgiest" if you will!

I guess its back to the books then!!!!!!!
 
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