This episode features a chat with Dr Natalia Gerodetti about the early and pioneering sociologist Harriet Martineau.
See the end of this post for links to the episode.
Natalia makes the case for Martineau as the “mother of sociology”. We discuss some of her fascinating biography and her independent and adventurous life which was far from usual for women in the nineteenth century. Martineau wrote a vast amount over her life in a variety of genres including fiction, journalism, political and activist interventions, popularisations of political economy (which were hugely popular. But we focus on her sociological writing which was far ahead of its time. She established a nuanced sociological method which was built on the assumed existence of “social facts” but saw these as being inherently intertwined with subjective, personal ideas, opinions and experiences. Her theory was also developed through her empirical research in America where she applied pioneering approaches to ethnographic observation, qualitative interviewing and macro-scale analysis. This led her to conclude that America was (in the 19th century) a society with great potential but held a fundamental contradiction between its professed values (equality, liberty, democracy) and the oppression and lack of freedom experienced by slaves and women.
As with many of the sociologists we are covering in this first series much of their writing can be accessed freely (as it is out of copyright) on sites such as Project Gutenberg.
A book which Natalia mentioned as introducing her to Martineau’s work is Women of Ideas by Dale Spender
I mentioned a book I’ve found really useful by Patricia Madoo Lengermann & Jill Niebrugge-Brantley The Women Founders: Sociology and Social Theory, 1830-1930
Harriet Martineau: Theoretical and Methodological Perspectives eds. Michael Hill and Susan Hoecker-Drysdale
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