The subject of sati – more commonly known to Anglophone readers as ‘suttee’, a term which was used by 18th- and 19th-century writers to signify the self-immolation of Hindu widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands (1) – has long been of interest to historians.
Michel Foucault famously asserted that sexual identity was a modern invention, remarking, ‘The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species’.(1) For Foucault, the vocabulary and specificity of modern sexual identity were largely formulated under the impetus of 19th-century sexology.
In essence, Williams’ monograph examines the poor relief given to individuals and families during the final decades of the old poor law in one Bedfordshire parish, namely Campton.
This important work is long overdue. It identifies two gaps in the existing historiography.
The collection of essays in ‘She said she was in the family way’: Pregnancy and infancy in modern Ireland is a welcome addition to our knowledge of Irish women’s lives. Its use of a variety of sources in original and revealing ways, its rigorous scholarly presentations and its overall knowledge of the field is truly of benefit to all those interested in Irish history.
Rachel Beer first caught my attention some 20 years ago when I was trawling through Who Was Who looking for journalists. She was unusual because she was the editor of The Sunday Times in the 1890s, when no other national newspaper had a woman editor. She was also deeply conscious of her background, proud of being a member of the wealthy and important Jewish family of Sassoon.
In recent years, historians have begun to explore the political experiences of Victorian women outside the well-trodden suffrage narrative. As a consequence, we have a far greater understanding of how certain women were able to negotiate, exploit and overcome the legal and ideological constraints society placed upon them.
In the late 19th century, the issue of infanticide captured the attention of a significant number of journalists, psychiatric and medical writers and social commentators. The act of intentionally killing an infant within 24 hours of its birth was by no means new to this period.
Both the problematic discourses of ‘professional/amateur’ and ‘public/private spheres’, and also the multifaceted hierarchies between the fine and the applied arts, have received substantial academic enquiry in the last thirty years. This is particularly true for the art historians researching the cultural activities of middle-class women in 19th-century Britain.