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Experience, culture and identity: women's lives in England 1688-c.1850 HI3013-05

This course examines the mental and material world of English women in a period of rapid social, economic and cultural transformation. Studying this programme you will develop a knowledge of women's lives over the long 18th century, i.e. c. 1688–1837.


30 Credits

Topics covered

It exploits the wealth of secondary literature that has appeared on the subject in recent years, and evaluates the dominant interpretations of continuity and change in women's history.

Attention focuses on the diversity of roles women played, the changing scope of female experience and the different languages available to articulate that experience.

Students will be encouraged to engage critically with the categories, modes of explanation and chronology of recent women's history.

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  • Characterise the distinctiveness of 18th-century society, differentiating the Georgians from both the Stuarts and the Victorians
  • Describe the changing scope of women's lives
  • Show an ability to analyse and reflect critically upon the key historiographical debates
  • Show a familiarity with the language, categories and preoccupations of 18th-century sources, printed and manuscript, visual and textual
  • Digest a range of secondary reading, distilling the key historiographical trends
  • Assess the strengths and limitations of both written and non-written sources
  • Show an ability to bring argument to bear on evidence
  • Write clear, well-structured and well-argued essays


  • Exam (80%)
  • Essay (10%)
  • Reflective journal and forum posts (10%)

Essential reading

  • Olwen Hufton, The Prospect Before Her (1995), especially the introduction and conclusion
  • Anthony Fletcher, Gender, Sex and Subordination in England, 1500–1800 (1995), especially the introduction and conclusion
  • Alice Clark, Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century (1919; republished, London: Routledge, 1982 & 1992)
  • Ivy Pinchbeck, Women Workers and the Industrial Revolution, 1750–1850 (1930; republished, London: Virago, 1981)
  • Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500–1800 (1977; abridged edn, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979)
  • Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender From The Greeks to Freud (Cambridge, MA, 1990).