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La Théorie qui n'en est pas une, or, Why Clio doesn't Care

Carolyn Steedman
History and Theory
Vol. 31, No. 4, Beiheft 31: History and Feminist Theory (Dec., 1992), pp. 33-50
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
DOI: 10.2307/2505414
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2505414
Page Count: 18
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La Théorie qui n'en est pas une, or, Why Clio doesn't Care
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Abstract

This article considers the practice of women's history in Britain over the last quarter century in relation to general historical practice in the society, to the teaching and learning of history at all educational levels, and to recent theoretical developments within feminism, particularly those developments framed by postmodernist thought. It makes suggestions about the common processes of imagining - or figuring - the past, and advances the view that because of shared cultural assumptions and shared educational experience, women's history in Britain has constituted a politics rather than a theoretical construct. The use of historical information by literary critics and theorists is discussed as forming a series of historical stereotypes of women that then, in their turn, shape historical investigation. The written history (specifically, women's history) is discussed as genre, and the author uses her recently published work on Margaret McMillan and late nineteenth- century British socialism to explore the narrative conventions governing the writing of autobiography, biography, and history, the differences among them, and the cognitive effects of employing them, as writer or as reader. A consideration of the sources used for the writing of McMillan's life highlights the particular constraints presented by women's history and the biography of women on the historian who wishes to discuss a woman who lived a public and political (rather than an interior or private) life.

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