The Arcadian Library in London holds one of the finest collections of writing by Western women travelling to the East. The books and manuscripts cover almost four centuries of travel and range from Mary Wortley Montagu's incomparable earlyeighteenth-century 'Turkish' letters to the publications of twentieth-century archaeologists, journalists, diplomatic wives and flamboyant adventurers. The best-known - for example Harriet Martineau, Lady Florentia Sale, Florence Nightingale, Amelia Edwards, Gertrude Bell and Lady Anne Blunt - are represented, alongside lesser-known European travellers such as the early Victorian writer Julia Pardoe and the Belgian-born Italian nationalist, Carla Serena. The feminist Mary Astell, on reading Mary Wortley Montagu's manuscript, commented that women could 'travel to better purpose' than men and could provide more accurate accounts of their cultural encounters.
This book examines the question of whether or not women's writings reflect a special 'female gaze' and discusses the style and content of women's writing about the East and the ways in which writers negotiated and adapted their narratives to conform to their readers' expectations while often, at the same time, challenging contemporary gender roles. The subject matter is wide-ranging and eclectic. The writers' interests and opinions reflect their own cultural backgrounds but extend from conformist and unsympathetic to adventurous, subversive and open-minded. Often they were more able than male travellers to observe and appreciate cultural difference and they recorded their impressions with enthusiasm and genuine understanding. Many women travellers were also talented artists and their sketches, watercolours and photographs, reproduced extensively in this richly illustrated book, illuminate much of their writing.
Penelope Tuson is an archivist and historian and was formerly Curator of Middle East Archives (India Office Collections) in the British Library. She later worked with the British Library's Consultancy Services, providing research and documentation services to academic and Government clients and subsequently joined the International Dispute Resolution Practice of a major U.S. law firm. She now specialises in collection development consultancy for libraries, archives and private individuals, while concentrating her personal academic interest on women's history. Her publications include The Queen's Daughters: an Anthology of Victorian Feminist Writings on India (1995) and Playing the Game: Western Women in Arabia, 1892-1939 (2003).
Introduction ; 1. 'The Most Excellent Talents': Eighteenth-Century Journeys to the Seraglio ; 2. Beyond Istanbul: Desert Journeys and the Overland Route to India ; 3. From Kabul to the Crimea: Women, War and the 'Great Game' ; 4. 'Shaped by the East': Feminists and Revolutionaries in the mid-Nineteenth Century ; 5. The Queen's Daughters: Finding a Female Voice in the Age of Imperialism ; 6. Shifting Identities: Politics and Adventure on the Borderlands of Empire ; 7. Dancing to the Dig: Women and Archaeology before the First World War ; 8. Arabia Deserta: the Najd Journeys of Lady Anne Blunt and Gertrude Bell