Sign up for the first session of our Autumn Seminar Series featuring Dr Naomi Pullin

Sign up for the first session of our Autumn Seminar Series featuring Dr Naomi Pullin, who will be sharing her research in a paper titled ‘Solitude, Ageing and the Female Lifecycle in Early Modern Britain, c. 1600-1800’!


Wednesday, 13 September 2023, at 4pm BST/GMT+1

Sign-up now for our online-only zoom webinar here.

Solitude, Ageing and the Female Lifecycle in Early Modern Britain, c. 1600-1800

‘Study of a Melancholy Girl’ (1775) by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1873, 1213.1041, © Trustees of the British Museum.

In this paper Naomi will discuss how solitude in early modern Britain was understood in gendered ways, focusing especially on women’s experiences of solitude.There has been much historical work on community and on the networks, relationships, and friendships that shaped women’s lives at all levels of early modern society. But in privileging these communal developments as the loci of historical change, there has been a tendency to neglect those quieter and more transient aspects of daily life that are often silenced and hidden from the historical record. What women did when they were out of company remains an overlooked topic. Moreover, in most commentaries from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, women were not believed to be capable of engaging in the types of productive and meaningful solitude connected to wider masculine ideals of creative genius. Even at the height of the Age of Reason, writers feared the consequences of retirement for women, whose imaginations and thoughts (it was believed) might lead them into all kinds of excessive behaviour.Yet this overlooks the fact that women from the middling and upper ranks of society spent large periods of their lives alone, often distanced from friends and social relations.Through examining women’s life writings, correspondence, and other personal papers, this paper explores those moments in the female lifecycle that shaped how they understood their social relationships and experiences of being alone. In so doing, Naomi seeks to show how time spent alone, as much as time spent in company, had important consequences for how women identified themselves in relation to the society that surrounded them.

About the Speaker

Naomi Pullin is Associate Professor of Early Modern British History at the University of Warwick. She is the author of Female Friends and the Making of Transatlantic Quakerism, 1650-1750 (Cambridge University Press, 2018) and editor of Negotiating Exclusion in Early Modern England, 1550-1800 (Routledge, 2021). She has also published a number of other chapters and articles on different aspects of early Quaker culture and facets of women’s identities and experiences. She is currently working on a new monograph entitled A Social History of Solitude in Early Modern Britain, which was funded by a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship.

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