Gender History

Module code: HS2231

Module co-ordinator: Dr James Bothwell, Dr Eliza Riedi and Dr Claudia Prestel

Module Outline

What makes a woman ‘womanly’ – or a man ‘manly’? How far should women have access to education, paid employment, and political power? What forms of sexuality should be considered ‘normal’ - and how should society deal with ‘deviant’ sex? These questions are still live issues across much of the world today. In this course we examine gender relations in historical context, focusing on three very different periods and places: medieval England, Victorian and Edwardian Britain, and modern Palestine. What were the gender ideals of the time? How far were they challenged? And did they actually reflect real life?

Topics covered

This module begins by examining gender issues today and how they affect us as individuals – we all have experiences of how gender impacts upon our lives, both what we expect of ourselves and what others expect of us. Students will then be given a historiographical lecture on how gender relations have been looked at by historians in the past. Thereafter we will focus on five key themes connected with gender relations (Education, Work, Politics, Religion and “Outside the Norm”), and how these manifest themselves in the later medieval period, Victorian and Edwardian England and Modern Palestine. Looking at topics as diverse as medieval alewives and “Lady Doctors”, Southwark brothels and Palestinian honour killings, we examine a broad range of gender relations both in lecture and discussion, concluding with a look at how gender relations have changed over the medieval/modern period as a whole.

The connected seminars will examine a variety of primary documents, from the thirteenth century “Rules of St Robert” on household and estate management for a noblewoman to John Ruskin’s ideas on female education, from the late medieval “Ballad of a Tyrannical Husband” to family stories of the 1948 Exodus. Between the lectures and the seminars, you will be introduced to many new types of document, from episcopal visitations to Islamic law documents, and topics which students have probably come across before, such as the rise of chivalry and the treatment of Oscar Wilde, will be given new meaning.


The module is taught by thematic sets of lectures and connected seminars looking at original documents (in translation where necessary).


Assessment is coursework only, weighted 40:60. The coursework is two essays, one exploring a single theme across two of the case studies (Medieval, Victorian & Edwardian, Palestinian), and the other researching a question connected with the third of the case studies.


General Background

M.E. Wiesner-Hanks, Gender in History (2010).

Later Medieval England

P.J.P. Goldberg, ed. Women in Medieval English Society (1997).
H.M. Jewell, Women in Medieval England (1996).
R. Karras, ed. From Boys to Men: Formation of Masculinity in Late Medieval Europe (2002).
C. Lees, ed. Medieval Masculinities: Regarding Men in the Middle Ages (1994).
H. Leyser, Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England (1995).
M.E. Mate, Women in Medieval English Society (1999).
J. Murray, ed. Conflicted Identities & Multiple Masculinities: Men in the Medieval West

Edwardian/Victorian Britain

K. Gleadle, British Women in the Nineteenth Century (2001).
S. Kingsley Kent, Gender and Power in Britain, 1640-1990 (1999).
J. Lewis, Women in Britain, 1870-1950 (1984).
P. Levine, Victorian Feminism (1987).
J.A. Mangan and J. Walvin, eds., Manliness and Morality (1987).
J. Purvis,ed., Women’s History: Britain 1850-1945 (1995).
J. Tosh, Manliness and Masculinities in Nineteenth-Century Britain (2005).
I. Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Women in Twentieth Century Britain (2001).

Modern Palestine

L. Ahmed, Gender and Islam. Historical Roots of a Modern Debate (1992).
O. Aref Najjar, Portraits of Palestinian Women (1992).
J.L.Gelvin, The Israel-Palestine Conflict. One Hundred Years of War (2005).
E .Fleischmann, The Nation and Its’New‘Women: The Palestinian Women’s Movement 1920-1948 (2003).
T. Mayer, ed., Women and the Israeli Occupation: The Politics of Change (1994).
M. Rosenfeld, Confronting the Occupation: Work, Education, and Political Activism of
Palestinian Families in a Refugee Camp (2004).
S. Sharoni, Gender and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (1995).
S. Sabbagh, ed., Palestinian Women of Gaza and the West Bank (1998).
I. Pappe, A History of Modern Palestine (2004).