The context of Martineau’s intellectual formation The nineteenth century, as indicated in the Introduction, was a time when modernity blossomed and where ideas, born in preceding periods in literature, science, industry, applied sciences and mechanics, philosophy and religion, economics and politics were actualized.2 Most remarkable were the shifts within the intellectual and practical sectors or paradigms of knowledge and invention. The dynamics among literature, religion and science constituted the quintessential matrix of transformations in knowledge and invention, in the intellectual and physical contexts in which Harriet Martineau, her predecessors and contemporaries thought and wrote. These transformations appeared in the work of Adam Smith, Montesquieu, Buffon and Lavoisier, who wished to advance the sciences of economy, culture and society, as well as in the literary worlds of Goethe, Balzac, Taine and Flaubert. Interest in natural history in particular evolved into a differentiation between ‘scientific modes of procedure’ and ‘literary modes’.3 Wolf Lepenies describes the contestation between literature and sociology for the most efficacious understanding of modern society:

This competing discloses a dilemma which determined not only how sociology originated but also how it then went on to develop: it has oscillated between a scientific orientation which has led it to ape the natural sciences and a hermeneutic attitude which has shifted the discipline towards the realm of literature.4