The union between England and Scotland, which created the United Kingdom of Great Britain, generated heated discussion both before and after the Acts of Union took effect on May 1, 1707. Members of Parliament, the nobility, clergymen, pamphleteers, and authors…
The union between England and Scotland, which created the United Kingdom of Great Britain, generated heated discussion both before and after the Acts of Union took effect on May 1, 1707. Members of Parliament, the nobility, clergymen, pamphleteers, and authors from both nations participated in debates on the Union, in many kinds of writing, for many years after 1707. The voices of British women, however, have not been sufficiently considered in our scholarship, and are often conspicuously absent from our accounts of these polemical wars, which were still raging in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This dissertation seeks to fill this gap in the academic conversation by taking Scottish, English, and British nationalisms as its theoretical paradigm in approaching writing by female authors. The dissertation's chapters examine how the Anglo-Scottish Union figures in the works by five women writers (Jane Austen, Cassandra Cooke, Dorothy Wordsworth, Mary Brunton, and Susan Ferrier) publishing from 1780 to 1820.
I argue that, in the aftermath of the Union, these women writers often expressed specifically gendered concerns— such as the maintenance of social etiquette, better education for women, making sense of national prejudices, and the erasure of regional socio-economic differences. In doing so, they ranged beyond a typically masculine focus on parliamentary politics, international military endeavors, macro economy, and national churches. English women writers' attitudes towards the Union were more positive than those entertained by Scots authors, but compared with contemporary male writers, both sides were less optimistic about the potential for building a blanket national identity for the entire Kingdom.
Taken together, the chapters of the dissertation provide a more comprehensive view of how the Anglo-Scottish Union figured in the minds of Britons, male and female, a century after its establishment, when the Kingdom was going through the Napoleonic Wars and another union with Ireland. The dissertation enriches our research on women's use of literary genres and techniques when taking part in political debates. It also serves to point out the need for more extensive surveys of the nuances of individual women writers' national affiliations.