Accessibility statement

Women in Early Modern England: Gender, Print & Politics - HIS00129M

« Back to module search

  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Hannah Jeans
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

England in the early modern period saw a great many challenges to the patriarchal gender system that governed society and politics. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw three queens who ruled in their own right; a revolution which turned society on its head; and the rapid spread of print that allowed women to engage in the ‘public sphere’ as never before. This course, stretching from the reign of Elizabeth I to that of Queen Anne, will consider how the early modern gender system worked, investigating concepts and ideals of femininity. We will then examine how women responded to those ideals and how they negotiated gender in their own lives, questioning the extent to which they were bound by gender conventions. To what extent did gender norms and ideals impact on women’s lives? How restrictive was the patriarchal system in practice, and how much agency did women have over their own lives?

This module will also consider women’s place in politics and print, and their individual lives and experiences. We will draw on women’s letters and diaries to examine their own words, and how they represented themselves in print. Looking at various aspects and periods of women’s experiences, in both childhood to adulthood, will help us to understand their lives. We will also consider how we should approach women’s history and gender history (and the differences between the two).

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

The aims of this module are to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation
  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and
  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Demonstrate a knowledge of a specialist historiographical literature;
  • Present findings in an analytical framework derived from a specialist field;
  • Solve a well-defined historiographical problem using insights drawn from secondary and, where appropriate, primary sources.
  • Set out written findings using a professional scholarly apparatus.

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing (RAW) weeks during which there are no seminars, and during which students research and write a formative essay, consulting with the module tutor. Students prepare for eight seminars in all.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. Representations of Early Modern Women
  2. Childhood and Education
  3. Women and the Home
  4. Radical Religion and Domestic Devotion
  5. ‘A World Turn’d Upside Down’: Gender and Revolution
  6. Sex and Sexualities
  7. Women Writing Women
  8. Elizabeth and Anne: Women in Early Modern Politics


Task Length % of module mark
Long Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students submit a 2,000-word formative essay in week 9.
A 4,000-word summative essay will be due in the assessment period.



Module feedback

Students will typically receive written feedback on their formative essay within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative essay during their tutor’s student hours—especially during week 11, before, that is, they finalise their plans for the Summative Essay.

For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For reading during the module, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • Sara Mendelson and Patricia Crawford (eds.), Women in Early Modern England, 1550-1720 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998)
  • James Daybell, Women and Politics in Early Modern England, 1450-1700 (London: Routledge, 2016)
  • Merry Wiesner (ed.), Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.