The Spread of Britishness: Coffee Houses, Circulating Libraries, and the Formation of Gender in the Atlantic World, 1750-1820

  • Author / Creator
    Cotton Cornwall, Olivia
  • During the second half of the eighteenth century, Britain saw a rapid growth of its printing industry and an expansion of both its national and international book trade. One of the most important export markets was the British Atlantic. This large and highly diverse region was home to some of the most culturally and economically valuable colonial holdings, including the Thirteen Colonies in America and Jamaica in the West Indies, who were also some of the largest consumers of Britain’s exported print. As the wide variety of newspapers, periodicals, and books left British shores and made their way into the colonies, it took with it British ideals and worldviews, including an understanding of gender roles and identities. Using mainland America and Jamaica as case studies, this thesis will demonstrate that between 1750 and 1820, the consumption of British print promoted British ideals of masculinity and femininity within these colonial societies and gave rise to transnational notions of gender identity. While the roles and responsibilities of men and women differed, as this study will suggest, they also shared several core values, including sociability, politeness, sensibility, and cosmopolitanism.
    Tracing the formation of gender identity can prove challenging, but Atlantic-wide literary institutions such as coffee houses and circulating libraries, which contained strong gender connotations, act as useful frameworks to study how gender traits were acquired, promoted, and practiced. Although the scholarship surrounding these establishments has remained largely independent from each other, research findings indicate that these institutions shared many similarities. Together they were important parts of the transnational book trade that acted as social hubs for men and women throughout the Atlantic world, and were destinations where they could foster and display their notions of sociability, politeness, sensibility, and cosmopolitanism.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2020
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
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