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British Women Writers and the Writing of History, 1670-1820

Devoney Looser

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Chosen by Choice Magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title

Until recently, history writing has been understood as a male enclave from which women were restricted, particularly prior to the nineteenth century. The first book to look at British women writers and their contributions to historiography during the long eighteenth century, British Women Writers and the Writing of History, 1670-1820, asks why, rather than writing history that included their own sex, some women of this period chose to write the same kind of history as men—one that marginalized or excluded women altogether. But as...

Chosen by Choice Magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title

Until recently, history writing has been understood as a male enclave from which women were restricted, particularly prior to the nineteenth century. The first book to look at British women writers and their contributions to historiography during the long eighteenth century, British Women Writers and the Writing of History, 1670-1820, asks why, rather than writing history that included their own sex, some women of this period chose to write the same kind of history as men—one that marginalized or excluded women altogether. But as Devoney Looser demonstrates, although British women's historically informed writings were not necessarily feminist or even female-focused, they were intimately involved in debates over and conversations about the genre of history.

Looser investigates the careers of Lucy Hutchinson, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Charlotte Lennox, Catharine Macaulay, Hester Lynch Piozzi, and Jane Austen and shows how each of their contributions to historical discourse differed greatly as a result of political, historical, religious, class, and generic affiliations. Adding their contributions to accounts of early modern writing refutes the assumption that historiography was an exclusive men's club and that fiction was the only prose genre open to women.

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Reviews

Essential to feminist scholarship in its objective and individualized approach to these authors.

Devoney Looser's book is important. It establishes the historical consciousness at the core of the achievements of a group of notable women writers over a period of a century and a half... This book achieves its goal of bringing to our attention a series of meritorious writers and texts that exemplify the important place occupied by women in the intellectual life of eighteenth-century England.

An excellent pioneering study of women's contribution to historiography in the long eighteenth century... Looser's work opens up several potential theses and books on historiography by women by drawing attention to the sheer range of possibilities of engagement with history as a form of writing.

Taken together, Looser's seven chapters make a persuasive case for locating women's authorship in a broader field of writing than usual.

This is a highly intelligent book... Looser's arguments are stepped in the current scholarship on each of these women, and she is a generous scholar who always gives credit where it is due... she will have you thinking about [genre] as you never have before.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Chapter 1. Introduction: British Women Writers and Historical Discourse
Chapter 2. The True and Romantic History of Lucy Hutchinson's Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson
Chapter 3

Acknowledgements
Chapter 1. Introduction: British Women Writers and Historical Discourse
Chapter 2. The True and Romantic History of Lucy Hutchinson's Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson
Chapter 3. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Historian of Her Own Time
Chapter 4. Charlotte Lennox and the Study and Use of History
Chapter 5. "Deep Immers'd in the Historic Mine": Catharine Macaulay's History in Letters
Chapter 6. Hester Lynch Piozzi's Infinite and Exact World History, Retrospection
Chapter 7. Reading Jane Austen and Rewriting "Herstory"
Notes
Works Cited
Index

Author Bio
Devoney Looser
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Devoney Looser

Devoney Looser is a professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is the editor of Jane Austen and Discourses of Feminism and coeditor (with E. Ann Kaplan) of Generations: Academic Feminists in Dialogue.