Magna Carta Women: Harriet Martineau 1802-1876

Published: Thursday 14 May 2015
Harriet Martineau depicted in "Magna Carta Women" by Tracy Satchwill and a scan of the Archive's copy of Martineau's book, Feats on the Fiord.

Harriet Martineau was an essayist, novelist, journalist, and economic and historical writer prominent among English intellectuals of her time. Her most scholarly work is The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte, Freely Translated and Condensed, 2 vol. (1853). Martineau gained a large reading public with a series of stories popularising classical economics. After a visit to the United States she became involved in the abolition movement. She wrote several novels, including stories for children, between 1839 and 1844, while housebound during a period of illness. She helped to found the popular genre of the school story with The Crofton Boys. A trip to the Middle East in 1846 led Martineau to study the evolution of religions. Originally a liberal Unitarian, she became increasingly skeptical of religious beliefs, and her avowal of atheism in the Letters on the Laws of Man’s Nature and Development (1851) caused widespread shock. She contributed to periodicals, writing c.1,600 articles between 1852 and 1866, displaying a radical stance on such issues as education, women’s rights or the abolition of slavery.

What we have in the Archives:

Two copies of her novel, The Peasant and the Prince. Our copies are undated, but are believed to date from the mid 19th C. The novel was first published in 1841. The novel portrays in great detail the last months of the French Royal family immediately before the French Revolution. [Ref: MGC Murray/317 and 318]

A copy of Feats on the Fiord. A Tale of Norway. Our copy is undated, but is believed to date from the mid 19th C. [Ref: Murray/316] The work was originally published in a collection of short stories for children entitled The Playfellow in 1841.

To view these items, or for more information on the Murray Collection in Brunel University London Archives, please get in touch.

Page last updated: Thursday 14 May 2015