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

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Hannah Jeans
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

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 module, 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 and 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 cycle
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

The module aims 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

After completing this module students should have:

  • An understanding of the history of early modern women and how historians have approached questions
  • of gender
  • Considered the ways in which women were represented and how they chose to represent themselves
  • Developed an understanding of women’s roles in some of the major events and changes taking place in
  • the early modern period

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Students will attend eight weekly two-hour seminars in weeks 2-9.

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

  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: Early Modern Queenship


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will complete a 2,000-word formative essay, due in week 6 of Autumn term. They will then submit a 4,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 2 of Spring term.

For further details about assessed work, students should refer to the Taught Masters Degrees Statement of Assessment.


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment, students will receive oral feedback at a one-to-one meeting with their tutor and written feedback consisting of comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission. Tutors are also available in their student hours to discuss formative assessment. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 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 term time reading, 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.