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Rethinking British Romantic History, 1770–1845$
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Porscha Fermanis and John Regan

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199687084

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199687084.001.0001

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The History Girls

The History Girls

Charlotte Smith’s History of England and the Politics of Women’s Educational History

Chapter:
(p.35) 1 The History Girls
Source:
Rethinking British Romantic History, 1770–1845
Author(s):

Greg Kucich

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199687084.003.0001

This chapter demonstrates how a wide range of women writers of educational history in the Romantic era transformed exemplary and instructive historical frameworks into a new kind of affective historicism, modelled on the sentimentalism of Adam Smith, David Hume, and other eighteenth-century historians but extending beyond individual character portraits into considerations of oppressed groups such as Jews, the Irish, slaves, and indigenous peoples. The chapter also argues that histories such as Charlotte Smith’s History of England (1806) strove to contain the excesses of sentiment associated with traditionally female modes of writing (the sentimental novel, epistles, memoirs) in order to produce a more active, public model of political agency. The chapter thus profitably complicates the role of sentiment in women’s historical writing by showing us how their commitment to an affective core of history did not mean retreating into a private world of sentimental indulgence but precisely the opposite.

Keywords:   women’s history, educational history, sentimentalism, affect, exemplarity, political reform, Charlotte Smith, History of England

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