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In Praise of Grand Historical Narratives

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Tomaselli, Sylvana 


Abstract: The long eighteenth century was a good time for history and historians. This article considers one of its most original genres, conjectural history, and of one of conjectural history’s most interesting subjects, woman. What made the conjectural history of woman most interesting was not only that it brought together all the elements that were themselves the subjects of theoretical histories, such as language, the arts and sciences, society, religion, and man, but continued to matter politically well into the nineteenth century. Indeed, one might argue that it continues to shape understandings of what it means to be civilized to this day. Following some observations on some of the challenges such a history presented to its practitioners, the essay turns to Engels’s The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State: in the Light of the Researches of Lewis H. Morgan and his contestation of the eighteenth-century view of the history of woman. It ends with some reflections on the importance of revisiting such histories. Keywords: historiography; conjectural history; women’s history; long eighteenth century; Friedrich Engels; August Bebel



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Intellectual History Review

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