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The University of Southampton

HIST2009 Gender, Sexuality and Social Order 1500-1750

Module Overview

The course will explore the impact of prescriptive ideas about male and female conduct in early modern society will be explored in this course. Starting with an examination of the roots of theories of masculinity and femininity in medicine, religion and the law, the course will consider how opportunities for, and attitudes towards, men and women changed between the sixteenth and mid-eighteenth centuries.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This course aims for you: • To understand how and why ideas about gender changed between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. • To engage critically with primary source material. • To understand and analyse the historiography of gender in the early modern period.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The lives of men and women in early modern England
  • The usefulness of gender as a historical category
  • The different ways in which scholars interpret the lives of early modern men and women
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Reflect critically on the different ways in which scholars have constructed ‘gender’ and ‘sexuality’
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Gather information and organise it into an accurate and coherent essay
  • Demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively in the context of a timed exam
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Engage critically with primary sources
  • Communicate accurately and clearly a range of knowledge and critical reflection in response to exam questions and essay topics
  • Make well-supported judgments about the value of particular interpretations of the evidence


Themes addressed will include: the family, the neighbourhood, and politics. Detailed case studies will be made of changing gender roles in the English Civil War and gender and witchcraft prosecutions to familiarise students with lively historiographical debates. Students will use both secondary literature and primary source material (such as diaries, ballads, conduct literature and legal records) to examine contemporary understandings of the concepts of ‘patriarchy’, ‘public v. private’ and ‘sexuality’ in the early modern period. Although this course will mainly focus on England, students will also be introduced to comparative European material.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Two lectures and one seminar per week.

Independent Study262
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

O. Hufton, The prospect before her (London, 1995).. 

A. Laurence, Women in Early Modern England (2005). 

A. Fletcher, Gender, sex and subordination in England, 1500-1800 (New Haven, 1995).. 

M. Wiesner, Women and gender in early modern Europe (Cambridge, 1993). 

R. B. Shoemaker, Gender in English society, 1650-1850 (London, 1998).. 

L. Gowing, Gender Relations in Early Modern England (2012). 



Written assignment


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 50%
Exam  (2 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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