During the 1820s Harriet Martineau undertook the writing of tracts and "little books" for the Shropshire publisher Houlston and Son, a firm specializing in religious and didactic literature. This apprenticeship allowed Martineau to master the generic features and literary style of the didactic tract and turn those techniques to new uses in her industrial tales, The Rioters (1827) and The Turn-Out (1829). Later, Martineau transformed the politics of the "little book" in her Illustrations of Political Economy (1832- 1834), a series exemplifying the economic theories of Adam Smith, James Mill, David Ricardo, and Thomas Malthus but intending to further the political goals of the Unitarian radicals. This essay argues that Martineau's "little books" were meant as the radical counterpart to Hannah More's Cheap Repository Tracts (1795-1798), a series of moral tales and didactic poems written during the 1790s in order to stifle the revolutionary impulses of the working classes and divert them into religious channels. By using the format and rhetorical features of the "little book," Martineau signals her desire to attract a popular audience and her intention, in the era of the First Reform Bill, to redirect knowledge from a conservative social and religious framework to a progressive, theory-based economics, politics, and literature.
- 2006 by The Regents of the University of California