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They have the popular format of the moral tale or the common textbook. One can discover in his books, however, many examples of the social and political philosophies he felt should be impressed upon the child and how they should best be conveyed. His purpose was to guide the child into responsible and rational adulthood through his stories.

Godwin was a man of his time and, like many of his contemporaries, his educational writings have a surprisingly modern ring. The end of the eighteenth century witnessed a tremendous increase in writing for and about children as well as the development of a broad societal base for the Victorian belief in the separate world of the child.

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Godwin produced several works dealing with educational theory. His alliance with Mary Wollstonecraft gave him both the benefit of her ideas on the education of children -- which were, in many ways more radical than his own -- and his first family. On her death in he was left with both his own newborn daughter and an older child of Mary's.


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In Godwin remarried, this time the widow Mary Jane Clairmont. She had a son and a daughter of her own, and she and Godwin had another son. Thus, in the space of five years, Godwin became responsible for the care and education of five children.

Philosopher of The Month: William Godwin [timeline]

Like many writers before and after, he used them as judges of his children's books. His two works on education, however, appeared before he had any practical experience of children.


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Godwin defined the object of education as the training of youth into rational man with an emphasis on responsible citizenship. This meant that certain aspects of a standard curriculum were highlighted while others were ignored.

In fact, the notion of a 'standard curriculum' is a misnomer for the ' s -- a period in which the traditional classical education was being questioned and the new sciences were pushing their way into the schools. Juvenile education should not be, according to Godwin, an end in itself. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

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Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves. Richard Gough Thomas is a Liverpool-born scholar of education and anti-authoritarian thought, and the editor of the journal Dark Arts. A book that will make Godwin more accessible within the classroom and the wider world has been needed for some time This outlines how and why we collect, store and use your personal data when you use our website.


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Like most websites, we use cookies to improve our service and make your user experience better. See our updated Privacy Policy to find out more about cookies and how we use your data. Famously married to Mary Wollstonecraft, father to Mary Shelley and inspiration to Lord Byron, his life and works lie at the heart of British Radicalism and Romanticism. In this biography, Richard Gough Thomas reads Godwin afresh, drawing on newly discovered letters and journals. He situates Godwin's early life in the counterculture of eighteenth-century religious dissent, before moving on to exploring the ideas of the French Revolution.

As Godwin's groundbreaking works propelled him from Whig party hack to celebrity philosopher, his love affair with Mary Wollstonecraft saw him ostracised in both liberal and conservative circles.

Godwin's anarchism always remained at the centre of his work, and remains his key legacy, inspiring libertarians, both left and right-wing. This biography places Godwin alongside his famous family as a major political, ethical and educational writer and shows why a reappraisal of his ideas is needed today. The Anarchist 2.