Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
de Bellaigue
University of Oxford
Website URL
history of women, history of childhood, class and social mobility, history of puberty, history of reading
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

My work explores the social and cultural history of nineteenth-century England and France, focusing in particular on the history of education, and the history of childhood, and on the history of social mobility.

My monograph Educating Women: schooling and identity in England and France, 1800-1867  (Oxford University Press, 2007) examined the development of schooling for middle class girls in England and France.  While tracking the evolution of the teaching profession and changes in the instruction offered to girls, it highlights differences between the dominant conceptions of femininity in the two countries and demonstrates how gender interacted with religion, social, economic and legal factors to determine the opportunities and constraints of women’s lives in the two countries.  Some of my recent work builds on this research to explore the relationship between gender and adolescence in England and France, examining the ways in which, in the early nineteenth century, a new wave of scientific and medical literature developed new theories of adolescence which influenced the treatment and experiences of young people in significant ways, and contributed to new patterns in family life and schooling.

A second strand in my research examines the comparative history of social mobility in France and England. Exploring the fortunes of two French and English families of the industrial bourgeoisie over four generations, and setting these case studies in broader statistical context, this project sheds new light on the relationship between gender, family and social mobility.  At the same time, by taking a family-biographical approach and exploring the ways in which individuals and families understood and managed changes in their social position, the project the intimate and emotional history of the experience of social mobility, aspects of social change which have been neglected by the existing scholarship which has been dominated by large-scale quantitative analyses.

In 2013 I was awarded funding by TORCH (the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities) to set up an interdisciplinary research network exploring qualitative approaches to the history and study of social mobility with Selina Todd.  Entitled ‘Rags to Riches? experiences of social mobility’ this group brings together historians, sociologists, anthropologists and education experts interested in developing new ways to extend our understanding of patterns and experiences of social mobility.  The network has held two successful workshops: the first, on ‘Rethinking social mobility’ in June 2015, organised by Helena Mills and Eve Worth brought together scholars from a range of disciplines developing new ways of understanding social mobility.   An edited volume drawing on some of the papers presented at that workshop will be forthcoming in 2018.  The second workshop, on ‘Great expectations: childhood and social mobility’,organised in June 2016 by Catherine Sloan, Will Clement and Karin Eli, brought together historians, anthropologists, sociologists, literary scholars, art historians and childhood specialists, all interested in thinking about the ways children are implicated in social mobility strategies.

Alongside this work, I have an interest in the history of home education and informal education, and recently published an edited collection of essays on Home Education in Historical perspective: Domestic Pedagogies in England and Wales 1750-1900 (Routledge, 2016).  An article about this project was published in The Oxford Historian in  2016.  The collection includes an article drawing on my research into the work of Charlotte Mason and the Parents’ National Educational Union.  Building on this research, I am currently developing a project to explore the use of the PNEU and the idea of ‘home education’ in the British Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Recent Publications
‘The time of storms’: managing bourgeois girls’ puberty in
France, 1800-1870′ Women’s History Review 27, 5 (2018)
C. de Bellaigue (ed.) Home Education in Historical Perspective, (Routledge, 2016)
Guest Editor and editorial Introduction: ‘Home Education 1750-1900: domestic pedagogies in England and Wales in historical perspective’, Special Issue of the Oxford Review of Education, 41, 4 (2015).
‘Charlotte Mason, home education, school education and the Parents’ National Educational Union in the late nineteenth century’ in C. de Bellaigue (ed.) Special Issue ‘Home Education 1750-1900: domestic pedagogies in England and Wales in historical perspective’. Oxford Review of Education, 41, 4 (2015).
‘Only what is pure and exquisite’: girls’ reading at school in France, 1800-1870’, French History, 27, 2 (2013).
‘Faith and Religion’ in C. Heywood (ed.) The age of empire, 1800-1900, vol. 5 of The cultural history of childhood and the family (series eds.) James Marten & Elizabeth Foyster, (Oxford, Berg, 2010).
‘De la femme aux individus: l’histoire du genre en Grande Bretagne, des années 1960 à nos jours’ Revue d’histoire du XIXe siècle, (2008), 37, 55-69.
Educating women: schooling and identity in England and France, 1800–1867(Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007).
‘“Educational homes” and “Barrack-like schools”: Cross-Channel perspectives on secondary education for boys in mid-nineteenth century England and France’, in D. Phillips, and K. Ochs, (eds.) Educational policy borrowing: Historical perspectives, Special issue] Oxford Studies in Comparative Education, 14, 2 (2004), 89-108.
‘“Les murs de la pension”. The school community in French and English boarding schools for girls, 1810–1867’, Paedagogica Historica, 40, 1-2 (April 2004),107-121.
‘The development of teaching as a profession for women before 1870’, The Historical Journal, 44, 4 (December 2001), 963-988.
Media Coverage
Interview for Making History (Radio 4) on the history of women teachers who travelled abroad.
Country Focus
Expertise by Geography
England, France
Expertise by Chronology
19th century
Expertise by Topic
Children & Youth, Family, Gender, Pedagogy, Women