Novel Histories: British Women Writing History, 1760-1830 argues that British women’s history and historical fiction in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century changed not only the shape but also the political significance of women's writing. As history writing in general became more literary and characterized by sentiment in the late eighteenth century, these authors pushed the limits of narrated history to carve out a space for women writers to respond to contemporary national politics, thereby enabling them to participate in civic life in new and sometimes subversive ways. This study examines historical and literary genres, historiography during the period, and the gendering of civic and literary roles.
Novel Histories: British Women Writing History, 1760–1830 argues that British women’s history and historical fiction in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries changed not only the shape but also the political significance of women’s writing. At a time when women’s participation in the republic of letters was both celebrated and reviled, these authors took cues from developments that revolutionized British history writing to push the limits of narrated history to respond to contemporary national politics. Through an examination of the conventions of historical and literary genres; historiography during the period; and the gendering of civic and literary roles, this study shows not only a social, political, and literary lineage among women’s history writing and fiction but also among women’s writing and the writing of history.
I. The Literariness of History
1 “My heart will stand the test”: Catharine Macaulay and Sympathetic
II. Traditional Genre and Naive Historical Narrative
2 Political Critique inSophia Lee’s The Recess and Ann Yearsley’s Earl
III. The “Collapse” of History and the Imaginary
3 Helen Maria Williams and the “Regendering” of History
4 Jane Porter's Novel Histories: "Romancing" the British Nation
5 Mary Shelley's Foreclosed History in Valperga
IV. “Narrativity” and Feminist History
6 “The worthy associates of the best efforts of the best men”: Lucy Aikin’s
Epistles on Women and Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth
Conclusion: Histories that are Novel