As a 17th-century noblewoman who became the first duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the writer and philosopher Margaret Cavendish has often been viewed as a royalist and a conservative within the context of the social and political issues of her time. In Margaret Cavendish: Gender, Science, and Politics
(Cambridge University Press, 2014), Lisa Walters
offers a very different interpretation of Cavendish’s thought, revealing the nuance and complexity of Cavendish’s thinking on a variety of subjects. As an aristocrat, Cavendish served as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Henrietta Maria and her family served the Royalist cause during the English Civil War in the 1640s. Yet as Walters demonstrates, Cavendish’s writings contain many radical ideas about women and gender relations, about the makeup of matter, and of political systems. Through an analysis of Cavendish’s writings that draws out commonalities between her fictional works and her nonfiction treatises, Walters provides a very different understanding of this under-appreciated contributor to Western thought.