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Gender, Enlightenment and Revolution in Eighteenth-Century Europe - HIS00160I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Catriona Kennedy
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

Did women have an Enlightenment? Did new modes of scientific and philosophical inquiry undermine the traditional gender order or provide fresh justifications for male dominance? How far did encounters with non-European cultures and peoples challenge European gender norms? Could the ‘rights of man’ be extended to include women?

This course will explore these and related questions using gender as a lens through which to illuminate and interrogate various aspects of the age of Enlightenment and Revolutions. A central theme of the course will be the complex and contradictory implications of enlightenment thought and revolutionary politics for women. We will consider the gendered meanings of key philosophical, political and scientific concepts and examine women's participation in various sites of intellectual and political activity from Masonic lodges and salons to the 'republic of letters' and the revolutionary crowd. Particular attention will be paid to the impact of the French Revolution on debates about women's rights and responsibilities and the feminist and counter-feminist arguments of the 1790s.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide students with the opportunity to study particular historical topics in depth
  • To develop students’ ability to examine a topic from a range of perspectives and to strengthen their ability to work critically and reflectively with secondary and primary material

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have acquired a deep knowledge of the specific topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to use and synthesise a range of primary and secondary sources
  • Be able to evaluate the arguments that historians have made about the topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to study independently through seminar-based teaching

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 1-hour plenary/lecture and a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW) during which there are no seminars. Students prepare for and participate in eight 1-hour plenaries/lectures and eight 2-hour seminars in all.

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

  1. Introducing the Enlightenment: the mind has no sex?
  2. Making difference: Sex and Science
  3. Travel, cultural comparison and narratives of civilisation
  4. Gender and the public sphere
  5. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the “natural” woman
  6. The French Revolution 1: gendering the revolutionary citizen
  7. The French Revolution 2: women’s voices
  8. Mary Wollstonecraft: the origins and defeat of feminism?


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

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students will complete a referenced 1200 to 1500-word essay relating to the themes and issues of the module. This will be submitted in either the Week 5 or Week 9 RAW week (on the day of the weekly seminar).

For summative assessment, students will complete an Assessed Essay (2000 words, footnoted). This will comprise 100% of the overall module mark.

Summative assessments will be due in the assessment period.


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

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark 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 work during their tutor’s student hours. 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 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:

  • Sarah Knott and Barbara Taylor (eds), Women, Gender and Enlightenment (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
  • Margaret R. Hunt, Women in Eighteenth Century Europe (Routledge, 2014).
  • Karen Green, A history of women’s political thought in Europe, 1700-1800 (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

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.