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Level 6

6AAH3009/10 Women & Gender in Early Modern England

Module information

Credit value: 60 credits (or optional 30 credits for combined honours students)

Module convenor/tutor: Dr Laura Gowing

Assessment: 1 x 3 hour examination (30 credits), 1 x 10,000 word dissertation (30 credits - optional for combined honours students).

Teaching pattern: 20 x 2 hour seminars (weekly)

Module description

This module examines the roles and relations of women and men in a period of great cultural, political, economic, social, and religious change (c.1530-1700). The law, religion, and popular culture of sixteenth and seventeenth-century England represented gender relations as rigidly hierarchical: women were to be chaste, silent and obedient to men. Daily life was much more complex: economic practicalities, political emergencies, and religious change made for more creative and flexible models. But most people left no formal records, and until recently, the history of early modern women focused on elites and on prescriptive literature. This module takes a different approach, exploring a wide range of primary sources and considering the means by which they can be interpreted by historians. Sermons and household advice, legal statutes and commentaries on the law are read alongside cheap pamphlets and ballads; legal testimonies record stories of marital breakdown, petty crime, and neighbourhood disputes that sometimes led to witchcraft accusations; letters, diaries and early autobiographies range from marital relations to political concerns; pauper petitions testify to the struggles of daily life. The module focuses both on writing women into the social, political and cultural histories of the period, and on using gender as a point of historical analysis for particular themes and events. Particular consideration will be given to the household economy; masculinity; marriage; the gendered body; sex and sexuality; pregnancy and childbirth; single women and widowhood; women's legal status in theory and practice; property rights; Protestantism; Puritanism; gender issues in the Civil War; Quakerism and women prophets; women's political participation; poverty; infanticide; honour and reputation; gender debates; and witchcraft.

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