School of English and Drama

Professor Barbara Taylor


Professor of Humanities



I grew up in western Canada, where I completed my first degree (in Political Thought) in 1971. I then moved to London to do an M.Sc in the history of political thought at the London School of Economics, followed by a PhD in History at the University of Sussex.  I taught history at the University of East London from 1993 until 2012 when I came to Queen Mary to take up a joint professorship in the Schools of English & Drama, and History. I have held visiting professorships at the universities of Amsterdam, Indiana, Notre Dame, and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, and I have been the recipient of research grants and fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust, the Nuffield Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Social Science and Humanities Council of Canada, and the Wellcome Trust. I currently direct a research project, ‘Pathologies of Solitude, 18th – 21st Century’, which runs from 2018 to 2022, funded by the Wellcome Trust. I directed the Raphael Samuel History Centre (QMUL-Birkbeck) for many years, and I have been an editor of History Workshop Journal since 1982.


Since I am currently directing a major research project, in 2018 -19 I am teaching only one module: HST7330: Selfhood and Enlightenment in the Long Eighteenth Century (Sem 2), and contributing to three others: ESH7014: Ideas and Metaphors: 1700-1820; HST4308: Unravelling Britain: HST7306: History of Political Thought


Research Interests:

I am interested in the relationship between subjectivity and intellectual/political change, especially in the period 1660-1850. My early research focused on feminist theory and history: I have published two well-known books on British feminism, and in the late 1990s I ran a Leverhulme-funded international research project on feminism and Enlightenment.  More recently my attention has turned to ideas about selfhood and subjectivity in Britain from the Restoration onward.   I am the co-convenor of a long-standing seminar at the Institute of Historical Research on ‘Psychoanalysis and History’, and I have written a personal history of mental health care in the late twentieth century. 

  • Theories, Histories and Representations of Subjectivity
  • Enlightenment Studies
  • Psychoanalytic Studies
  • Feminist Theory and History
  • Radical Writing in Britain, 1790-1850

Recent and On-Going Research:

My research  focuses on selfhood and subjectivity from the late 17th to the late 20th century. In 2012 I published an edited collection of essays on psychoanalysis and history (History and Psyche: Culture, Psychoanalysis and the Past, co-edited with Sally Alexander), and my most recent book is a memoir-cum-history of the transition from institutional to community-based psychiatric care in late 20th century Britain (The Last Asylum, 2014). At present, I am writing a book about attitudes to solitude among Enlightenment intellectuals in 18th century Britain.



Single-Authored Books:

The Last Asylum (Penguin, 2014)

Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Eve and the New Jerusalem: Socialism and Feminism in the Nineteenth Century (Virago, 1983; Harvard University Press, 1992). Republished with a new introduction (Virago, 2016).

Co-Authored books:

On Kindness, with Adam Phillips (Penguin, 2009; Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2009)

Edited Books:

History & Psyche: Culture, Psychoanalysis and the Past, edited with Sally Alexander (Palgrave, 2012)  

Women, Gender and Enlightenment, 1650-1850, edited with Sarah Knott (Palgrave, 2005; pbk 2007)

Selected Journal Articles and Book Chapters:

‘Separations of Soul: Solitude, Biography, History’, American Historical Review, 114.3, 2009

‘Marian Engel’s Bear’, Women: a Cultural Review, 21.2, 2010

‘The Demise of the Asylum in Late Twentieth Century Britain’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, vol 20, 2011

‘Enlightenment and the Uses of Woman’, History Workshop Journal, 74, 2012

‘Historical Subjectivity’, in Sally Alexander and Barbara Taylor, eds, History and Psyche: Culture, Psychoanalysis, and the Past (Palgrave, 2012)

‘Solitary Walkers: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Mary Wollstonecraft’, in H Rosenblatt (ed), Thinking with Rousseau from Machiavelli to Schmidt (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

‘Mary Wollstonecraft and Modern Philosophy’, in S Berges and A Coffee, eds, The Social and Political Thought of Mary Wollstonecraft (Oxford University Press, 2016)

Reprints and Translations:

‘The Religious Foundations of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Feminism’, in Claudia Johnson, ed., Cambridge Companion to Mary Wollstonecraft (Cambridge University Press). Reprinted in Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Norton Critical Edition (Deidre Lynch, ed), 2009

 ‘Mary Wollstonecraft and the Wild Wish of Early Feminism’, History Workshop Journal, no 33, 1992; and ‘For the Love of God: Religion and the Erotic Imagination in Wollstonecraft’s Feminism’ in E. Yeo, ed., Mary Wollstonecraft and 200 Years of Feminisms (London, Rivers Oram, 1997), both reprinted in Jane Moore, ed., Mary Wollstonecraft (London, Ashgate, 2012)

On Kindness (Penguin, 2009): Italian, French, Spanish, German and Brazilian editions (2009-2012)

Eve and the New Jerusalem (Virago, 2016).

Web Articles:

Web Articles:

‘History Workshop Journal’ (2009):

‘History, the Nation and the Schools’ (2011):

‘Mental Health Professionals Need to Stand Up and Be Counted’ (2015),


See also my Queen Mary Research Publications profile


I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.

Current PhD students:

Georgia Haseldine, ‘Radical Portraiture, 1789-1815’. CDP with National Portrait Gallery

Amy Durant ‘Female Energy and Agency in the Works of Aphra Behn’

Carolyn Da Silva, ‘Citizen-critics: Epistolary Women’s contributions to the Revolution Controversy, 1789-1800’


Past PhD students:

Arianne Chernock: ‘Champions of the Fair Sex: Men and the Creation of Modern British Feminism, 1788 - 1800’ (Berkeley, 2004). 

Laura Schwartz: ‘Infidel Feminism: Secularism, Religion and Women’s Rights in England c.1830-1889’ (University of East London, 2009). 

Susan Allen: ‘Women of the Left and Peace Campaigning Before Greenham, 1950-1970’ (University of East London, 2011).

Public Engagement

You can read about a selection of my media and public appearances here.