The first sustained study of the vibrant links between domestic craft and British colonialism
In the eighteenth century, women’s contributions to empire took fewer official forms than those collected in state archives. Their traces were recorded in material ways, through the ink they applied to paper or the artifacts they created with muslin, silk threads, feathers, and shells. Handiwork, such as sewing, knitting, embroidery, and other crafts, formed a familiar presence in the lives and learning of girls and women across social classes, and it was deeply connected to colonialism.
Chloe Wigston Smith follows the material and visual images of the Atlantic world that found their way into the hands of women and girls in Britain and early America—in the objects they made, the books they held, the stories they read—and in doing so adjusted and altered the form and content of print and material culture. A range of artifacts made by women, including makers of color, brought the global into conversation with domestic crafts and consequently placed images of empire and colonialism within arm’s reach. Together, fiction and handicrafts offer new evidence of women’s material contributions to the home’s place within the global eighteenth century, revealing the rich and complex connections between the global and the domestic.
Chloe Wigston Smith is professor of eighteenth-century literature at the University of York, where she teaches in the Department of English and the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies. She is the author of Women, Work, and Clothes in the Eighteenth-Century Novel.
“Closely worked, beautifully stitched: a whole new story about imaging the world and the novel in the hands of women in eighteenth-century Britain and early America unfolds before your eyes.”—Ros Ballaster, author of Fabulous Orients: Fictions of the East in England 1668–1785
“Chloe Wigston Smith’s stunning book shows how women fashioned their own imaginative empire with needle, fabric, and thread as well as their printed words.”—Joseph Roach, Yale University
“Beautifully written and illustrated, Novels, Needleworks, and Empire unearths an incredible array of handicrafts that will forever change the ways we think about gender, race, and empire in the Atlantic world—a must-read for anyone interested in the material cultures of the long eighteenth century.”—Crystal B. Lake, author of Artifacts: How We Think and Write About Found Objects
“Inspired by the knits, knots, and webs of eighteenth-century makers, this impressively researched book gathers an astonishing archive of texts and textiles, needlework and novels, to reveal the myriad entanglements between domestic practice and transoceanic empire.”—Sean Silver, Rutgers University
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