Paris: Chez Briand, 1794. First French translation of this well known Hitory of Wome, which first appeared in 1779. Four engraved frontispieces by Philibert Boutrois. Complete with half-titles. Light wear to binding extremities, a little light foxing. A very good, clean set. Contemporary mottled calf, gilt flat spines with brown and black morocco labels, edges stained red. , xxxiii, , 238, [2, errata]; , 312, [2, errata]; , 240, [2, errata]; , 301, , [1, errata] pp. Item #14768
William Alexander (bap. 1742?, d. 1788?) was a University of Edinburgh-educated medical doctor. The present work, which has sociological and anthropological overtones, is his best know. It “deserves to take a place among Enlightenment histories of civil society. Though Alexander clearly knew and was influenced by Montesquieu and the encyclopédistes, it was to contemporary Scottish historians such as John Millar, Lord Kames, and Gilbert Stuart that he owed his greatest debts. Like them, he attempted to place the history of women and gender roles firmly within the history of civil society, though he also perpetuated their disagreements and inconsistencies. The History is long, rambling, and inconsistent, and omits any scholarly references. In it, Alexander drew widely and indiscriminately upon biblical history, theological studies, classical and medieval histories, and travel literature to construct narratives of women's employment, marriage, child-rearing patterns, customs and ceremonies, and the status and public power of women. He explored the relative influences of nature, or biology, and education, or environment, in shaping the manners of women; the potential for the moral corruption of nations in the absence of female chastity; the relationship between the progress of ‘civilization’ and the condition of women; and the distinctive characteristics of both ‘northern’ and British women. On the whole Alexander was inclined to give little weight to the influence of Christianity in the improvement of the condition of women, and there is an anti-Catholic and anti-clerical tinge to much of his discussion” (D.N.B.). The History of Women went through three British editions in as many years. It was translated into French and German, and two American editions were produced.
OCLC notes only three copies (Leeds, UCLA and the University of Kansas).