Civilization, Patriotism and Enlightened Histories of Woman

  • Sylvana Tomaselli


The concept of civilization has been pressed into hard work in eighteenth-century studies in recent years and as such warrants scrutiny. While it will be examined somewhat tangentially here, its conjunction with patriotism in the present chapter will provide a framework for, and possibly even the beginning of an answer to, a fair question prompted by an examination of the Enlightenment debate about woman, namely, why it was that, since the progress of civilization was said to be so favourable to woman, women did not themselves herald the good news. Why was it, in other words, that men, not women, wrote the conjectural history of woman in the eighteenth and nineteenth century? For it was indeed only men who outlined the various stages of society, noting how each transformation from the state of nature to the modern age marked an advancement in the condition of women.


Europe Expense Defend Heroine Salon 


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  1. 2.
    Œuvres Complètes de Thomas, de l’Académie Française (Paris: Desessarts, 1802, 4 Vols.), Vol. I, p. xix. On Madame Necker’s salon, see, Dena Goodman, The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment (London: Cornell University Press, 1994), esp. pp. 53–89.Google Scholar
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    For an account of Macaulay as a historian and the reception of her history, see, Bridget Hill, The Republican Virago: The Life and Times of Catharine Macaulay, Historian (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).Google Scholar
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    See, Sylvana Tomaselli, ‘Woman in Enlightenment Conjectural Histories’, in Conceptualising Woman in Enlightenment Thought, Hans Erich Bödeker and Lieselotte Steinbrügge (eds) (Berlin: Arno Spitz GmbH, 2001).Google Scholar
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    See, Caroline C. Lougee, ‘Le Paradis des Femmes’: Women, Salons, and Social Stratification in Seventeenth-Century France (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976).Google Scholar
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    For an insightful reading of the Vindications as vindications of political virtue, see, Virginia Sapiro, A Vindication of Political Virtue: The Political Theory of Mary Wollstonecraft (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1992).Google Scholar

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© Sylvana Tomaselli 2005

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  • Sylvana Tomaselli

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