British Women Write the East after 1750: Revisiting a ‘Feminine’ Orient

  • Felicity A. Nussbaum


Though European interest in the Orient derives from biblical, classical and medieval times, its most celebrated eighteenth-century manifestation, Galland’s Thousand and One Nights in English translation beginning in 1704 (published in four editions before 1712 and serialised by the London News in 455 instalments over three years), constitutes a significant cultural event. The collection of stories marks the beginning of the Oriental tale in English and presents a coherent, compelling way of imagining the Muslim East. This ‘Moorish fantasy’, as Shaftesbury termed England’s intoxication with alterity, was modulated after the Seven Years’ War had significantly widened the scope of British imperial power when ‘for the first time … in conquering Bengal, Britain achieved decisive land victories and subsequent authority over Islamic powers’.1 British interest in the East continued to proliferate into literature, travel accounts, and Oriental goods after 1750, but not without public alarm.


Eighteenth Century Female Captive British Woman East India Company Male Tradition 
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© Felicity A. Nussbaum 2005

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  • Felicity A. Nussbaum

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