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School of English and Drama

Professor Barbara Taylor, Hons BA (Saskatchewan), MSc (London School of Economics), D Phil (Sussex), Fellow Royal Historical Society.


Emeritus 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 I am not delivering any undergraduate teaching. In 2020-2021 I am teaching a two-semester unassessed seminar course, ‘Solitudes, Past and Present’ for postgraduates at all levels.


Research Interests:

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

Recent and On-Going Research:

My current research focuses on selfhood and subjectivity from the mid 17th century to the present. 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 directing a major research project, ‘Pathologies of Solitude, 18th – 21st C’, and writing a book about solitude in Britain during the long 18th century.



  • The Last Asylum (Penguin, 2014; Chinese translation, 2016; Spanish translation, 2020)
  • 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.
  • On Kindness, with Adam Phillips (Penguin, 2009; Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2009). Italian, French, Spanish, German and Brazilian editions, 2009-2012)


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 Publications

  • ‘Philosophical Solitude: David Hume versus Jean-Jacques Rousseau’, History Workshop Journal 89 (2020):
  • ‘A Paradoxical Privacy: Solitude and the Inner Voice in the Writings of Denise Riley’, Feminist Theory, 21:3 (2020):
  • ‘Rousseau and Wollstonecraft. Solitary Walkers’, H Rosenblatt and P Schweigert (eds), Thinking with Rousseau. From Machiavelli to Schmidt (Cambridge University Press, 2017)
  • ‘Mary Wollstonecraft and Modern Philosophy’, in S Berges and A Coffee, eds, The Social and Political Thought of Mary Wollstonecraft (Oxford University Press, 2016)
  • ‘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). Spanish translation in Espacio, Tiempo y Forma 5:29 (2017)
  • ‘The Demise of the Asylum in Late Twentieth Century Britain’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 20 (2011)
  • ‘Separations of Soul: Solitude, Biography, History’, American Historical Review 114.3 (2009)
  • ‘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, ed. Deidre Lynch (2009)
  • ‘Mary Wollstonecraft and the Wild Wish of Early Feminism’, History Workshop Journal 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)



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

Selected Media appearances

  • BBC Radio 4. Woman’s Hour. Feb 2014
  • BBC World Service. Newshour. Feb 2014
  • BBC Radio 4. Today Programme. Feb 2014
  • BBC Radio 5 Live. Stephen Nolan Programme. Feb 2014
  • The Last Asylum is BBC Radio 4 ‘Book of the Week’. Feb 2014
  • Irish Radio. Sean Moncrieff Show on Newstalk. Feb 2014
  • BBC Radio Scotland. April 2014
  • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: ‘Sunday Edition’. Interview. Feb 2015
  • Canada TV AM. Interview. Feb 2015.
  • Late Night Live’ Interview, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. April 2015
  • Guardian Books Podcast. May 2015:
  • ‘Talking History’, Newstalk Radio (Ireland) November 2017.
  • ‘Anatomy of Loneliness’, BBC Radio 4.
  • ‘On Kindness’. 3CR Radio Australia. November 2019.
  • ‘A Short History of Solitude’, BBC Radio 4:


Review of Sheila Rowbotham, Rebel Crossings, Guardian 25.02.17.

Review of Margaret Willes, The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, Guardian, 30 .12.17.

Review of Josh Cohen, Not Working, Guardian, 12.1.19

Review of Tessa McWatt, Shame on Me, Guardian, 23.12.19

‘Solitary Citizens: The Politics of Loneliness’, Guardian, 27.06.20, ‘


‘Are We More Lonely Than Our Ancestors?’ (

‘Robinson Crusoe and the Morality of Solitude’, Wellcome Collection.

‘The Art of Solitude’,

Solitude and Covid 19’ (with David Vincent):

Mile End Institute: ‘The Politics of Loneliness in Pandemic Britain’:


Queen Mary Digital Lecture Series: People and Pandemics, a Better World?

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