Constructing the eighteenth-century woman: the adventurous history of Sabrina Sidney

Iles, Katharine (2012). Constructing the eighteenth-century woman: the adventurous history of Sabrina Sidney. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

PDF - Accepted Version

Download (2MB)


The story of Thomas Day’s attempt to educate a young girl according to the theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, with the aim of marrying her, has often been referred to as a footnote in Enlightenment history. However, the girl chosen by Day, Sabrina Sidney, has never been placed at the centre of any historical enquiry, nor has the experiment been explored in any depth. This study places Sabrina at its centre to investigate its impact on her and to examine the intellectual and societal debates that informed Thomas Day’s decision to educate a wife. This thesis argues that Sabrina Sidney was in a constant state of construction, which changed depending on a myriad of factors and that constructions of her were fluid and flexible. These constructions were both conscious and unconscious and crucially, they were created as much by Sabrina as by those around her. This research concludes that placing minor historical figures to the centre of historical enquiry fundamentally changes the histories of which they are a part and that it is possible to use a variety of sources to construct a rich and detailed biographical study that offers a new perspective on the English Enlightenment.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


Request a Correction Request a Correction
View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year