London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Greene & Longman, 1833. First edition. Contemporary cloth binding with paper label to front board. Some bumping and rubbing to extremities; spine a bit sunned. Front hinge cracked slightly but sound. Internally a clean, tight, complete copy of this rare work, which OCLC lists at only 3 institutions worldwide. The only copy presently on the market, this scarce book documents Marcet's efforts to expand knowledge access to the working classes in order to make political self-advocacy possible.
A peer of such feminist thinkers as Maria Edgeworth, Marcet is considered one of the most important figures in the history of women's education. Her "Conversations" books, which include texts on politics, economics, and science, were ranked among the best-known educational texts of the nineteenth century. In addition to making these rigorous fields accessible to women who might otherwise be denied such training, they also welcomed in young boys whose access to quality education might be hindered by class. Among her most famous readers was Michael Faraday, who encountered her books while serving as a bookbinder's apprentice and was inspired to delve more deeply into the sciences (Science History Institute). The present work seeks to popularize economic theory and put forward an argument for decreasing wage gaps among rich and poor; and in line with her overall project, Marcet seeks to make her argument accessible to readers of all education levels. Wrapped in allegory in order to welcome in labor-class readers who may not have complex economic vocabularies, Marcet's tale posits the need for new economic policy into a series of nine allegorical essays, told "through the eyes of honest John Hopkins, a laborer on low wages" (Liberty). Scholars have increasingly viewed John Hopkins as an important and previously undervalued piece of Marcet's oeuvre; and her desire to bring the working class into dialogue about their own economic state signals an important cultural change. "Marcet was engaged in the work of the knowledge broker -- creating and maintaining networks between and among scientists and the larger public. Knowledge sharing was based upon the personal and social connections she facilitated by bringing together bankers, scientists, and professional economists such as Malthus, Ricardo, Mill and others. It was extended to the popular culture through the many editions of her Conversations addressed to the middle classes, and enlarged to include the working classes with her John Hopkins's Notions on Political Economy" (L. Forget). Lesser known but nonetheless one of Marcet's culturally important contributions, this volume contains important lessons on how to expand a class's knowledge base and provide the tools for political and economic self-advocacy.
Feminist Companion 713. Women in Science 125. Dictionary of Economics. (Item #2671)