Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Committee Member

Michelle Tusan, Chair

Second Committee Member

Gregory Brown

Third Committee Member

Elspeth Whitney

Graduate Faculty Representative

Kelly Mays

Number of Pages



One of the distinctive and remarkable traits of Harriet Martineau was her need to publish information that she believed would benefit society. Her publications - Illustrations of Political Economy (1832), Society in America (1837) and Retrospect of Western Travel (1838) - have the distinct characteristic of being published with the intent to inform and educate the British public. Scholars have focused on her later 1848 publication, Eastern Life: Present and Past, as her most important publication. Yet I will argue that it was her earlier works which set the stage for this later, better known book. Her travel to the United States in 1834 to 1836 showed her the moral problems with slavery, although her anti-slavery beliefs had already been published in 1832.

The writings of Harriet Martineau must also be viewed as crucial to the rise of women in the Victorian public sphere. Martineau's ability to travel to the United States as well as the Middle-East gave her writings a sense of power and authority with the British public. As Martineau's work rose to prominence, the place of women in the slavery debate changed as well. Women no longer worked only as behind-the-scenes activists, but also formed their own Anti-Slavery societies and published pamphlets and periodicals.

It will be shown that Harriet Martineau could be considered a radical in Victorian society, although she worked within the confines of roles acceptable for women of Britain. She was a woman who traveled with the intent to understand a society different from her own and chose to take a public stand on an institution she deemed an abomination. Through her earlier writings, which are rarely discussed by scholars, one can understand the beliefs she held and published throughout her life.


Antislavery movements; Ethics; Feminism; Great Britain; Martineau; Harriet; 1802-1876; Middle East; Morality; Political economy; Slavery; Victorian women; Women abolitionists; Women authors; Women travelers


Cultural History | European History | Literature in English, British Isles | Politics and Social Change | Social History | Women's History

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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