A compact History of Section C

In the early 19th century there was a nationwide impetus to form natural history and philosophical societies. The reasons for this were sociological as much as scientific. It was at that time that influential people realised that they could augment their status by sponsoring the development of organisations for the public good. However, they were limited in what they could choose as the focus for these societies, because the big topics of the day, religion and politics, were extremely polarised, and intruded into so much of everyday life. Thus, they had to select non-controversial areas, where people from different backgrounds could come together, without conflict. Philosophy, literature (non-political and non-sectarian of course) and natural history were obvious choices, and just to make absolutely sure than the twin evils didn't intrude, the founders of the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society, like many others, actually made a rule that religion and politics could not be discussed at society meetings.

The LLPS was founded in 1835, and, for 14 years, pursued a rather random course wherein a broad range of topics were lectured upon and discussed. In 1849, it was decided to formalise the interests of the diverse group of members, who had clearly shown their preferences for different specialities, and a number of different 'sections' were created under the umbrella of the parent body. Following the lead of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, these sections were lettered alphabetically; and the LLPS even allocated the same letters to the same subjects as the Association. Thus, the Geology Section became Section 'C', and it has remained so ever since - the only section of the LLPS to survive unchanged from its original designation and intent. Sadly, these days Section C is one of only two still in existence, the other being the Natural History Section 'E'. The evolution of Section C hasn't always been smooth, and there were inevitable disruptions during two world wars. We also survived a very rocky spell in the early 1950s, but now we are a happy, and healthy, organisation with a thriving membership of around 150 persons. We offer summer and winter programmes, which stand favourable comparison with any in the country, and exceed most in quantity and quality. We hold most of our meetings in the Ken Edwards Building at Leicester University, which offers fine facilities, but we retain our historical connection with Leicesters' New Walk Museum, and have three winter meetings there. We celebrated our 150th anniversary in 1999, with a formal dinner in the Museum, surrounded by the ghosts of our Victorian forerunners. We are proud of our long history and traditions, but are also a forward looking society, keen to make use of the new technological tools of the 21st century.