Montesquieu’s Treatment of Women in his Works

Patricia Arbuckle, Wilfrid Laurier University


It is my intention in this study to examine Montesquieu’s treatment of women in his works. I have concentrated on his two major works Lettres Persanes (1721) and De l’Esprit des Lois (1748) not only because they are considered his best works, but also because, after reading his other writings that deal with women, I think that the ideas expresed in these two works are clearly representative of his thoughts in general about women. I have also chosen these two works because ach represents a certain period in Montesquieu’s life. Lettres Persanes, written in 1721 when Montesquieu was thirty-two years old, is a work of his youth while De l’Esprit des Lois, published in 1748, seven years before his death, can be considered a work of his mature years. The ideas expressed in this work, especially, are a culmination of all Montesquieu’s thoughts about women, the result of long years of study and of his travels through Europe. The difference in these two works shows us how Montesquieu’s ideas about women developed and were modified in his later years.