How to Observe Morals and Manners

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How to Observe Morals and Manners is a sociological treatise on methods of observing manners and morals written by Harriet Martineau in 1837–8 after a tour of America.[1] She stated that she wasn't looking for fodder for a book, but also privately remarked that "I am tired of being kept floundering among the details which are all a Hall and a Trollope (writer of Domestic Manners of the Americans) can bring away.”[2]

As opposed to Victorian prescriptive handbooks of how societies ought to behave, Martineau focuses on observing locals on their own terms and emphasizes the need to accept cultural relativism of other people.

Manners and Morals[edit]

Martineau combined what she called manners and morals. She states that "Manners have not been treated of separately from Morals in any of the preceding divisions of the objects of the traveler's observation the reason is, that manners are inseparable from morals, or, at least, cease to have meaning when separated".[3]

This is distinctive against Mary Wollstonecraft who, in her preface to A Vindication of the Rights of Women, stated that "Manners and morals are so nearly allied that they have often been confounded; but, though the former should only be the natural reflection of the latter, yet, when various causes have produced factitious and corrupt manners, which are very early caught, morality becomes an empty name."


  1. ^ See Martineau, Harriet (1838). How to Observe Morals and Manners (1 ed.). London: Charles Knight & Co. Retrieved 11 August 2014.  |first1= missing |last1= in Editors list (help)
  2. ^ Pichanick, Valerie K. Harriet Martineau, The Woman and Her Work, 1802-76. Lansing: U of Michigan P. 1980. 74.
  3. ^ Martineau, Harriet. How to Observe Morals and Manners. p. 218. 

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