Lucy Moynihan

Lucy Moynihan

Twitter: @lucyannmoynihan

Thesis Title

Race, Slavery and Abolition at the Liverpool Athenaeum, 1797-1833.


University of Liverpool


Prof. Mark Towsey
Dr. Laura Sandy
Mr. David Brazendale

Research Summary

The Liverpool Athenaeum was founded in 1797, as part of a broader trend of establishing subscription libraries on both sides of the Atlantic. The institution is one of only a handful which still survive and is a living cultural symbol of Liverpool’s Georgian past. While the proprietors founded the club in order to boost the civic, intellectual and artistic status of the town, the formation of this Enlightenment institution took place within the epicentre of the transatlantic slave trade. This project seeks to unpick this uneasy tension, using a prosopographical approach to uncover the ties to enslavement within the histories of individual proprietors and the institution as a whole. It is hoped that this approach will enable the voices of enslaved people, who are hidden within the fabric of this institution, to be recovered. The Athenaeum will be compared to other subscription libraries across the British Empire, such as the Barbados Literary Society (est. 1777), to broaden our understanding of imperial knowledge exchange in the eighteenth century, within the context of colonial violence and slavery.

Research Interests

History of libraries and reading
Colonial History and Slavery
Knowledge exchange in the Atlantic World
Epistemic Violence


British society for eighteenth century studies conference, January 2023.
Delivered a paper entitled, ‘Race, Slavery and Abolition at the Liverpool Athenaeum and Beyond, 1777-1833’ as part of a panel showcasing the Libraries, Reading Communities and Cultural Formation database project. I was nominated for the President’s Prize for this paper.

Libraries, lives and legacies conference, Liverpool April 2023
Delivered a paper entitled, ‘An Empire of Readers? A Case Study of the Barbados Literary Society, 1777-1833’.

Eighteenth century worlds research centre summer finale, university of Liverpool June 2023.
Delivered a paper showcasing research into an Athenaeum proprietor entitled ‘“The Kindest Father and Best of Friends”: A Year in the Life of a Liverpool Enslaver’.

Institute of historical research long eighteenth-century seminar lightning talks, London June 2023.
Delivered a paper entitled ‘Race, Slavery and Abolition at the Liverpool Athenaeum’, 1797-1833.

History workshop online blogpost about the Anglo-Caribbean literary community in Jamaica and Barbados, entitled, ‘An Empire of Readers’, 8th February 2023.


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