This module will study women’s history in the context of several centuries of historical change within the medieval period. Its first key aim is to study the impact of long-term economic, social and political change on those regarded as the ‘weaker sex’. The second key aim is to consider the important question of whether women’s history should be studied within the same chronological framework as men’s. An important issue here is that in medieval society women were predominantly excluded from government, economic independence, and formal education; moreover, power in the hands of a woman was regarded as actively dangerous. These restrictions made women’s situation so apparently different from that of men that some historians have argued that the normal categories of historical interpretation cannot be applied to medieval women. We shall therefore look at the long period of economic growth which reached its peak in the thirteenth century, and then at the catastrophes of the fourteenth century, with special attention to the impact of the Black Death. Women will also be studied within their social milieux, from royal courts via growing cities to manors and farms. Their legal rights and restrictions, their education, and their relationship to the Church, will all be discussed. In order to move beyond generalisations we shall be looking in detail at both textual and material sources. By the end of the module it should be possible to advance answers to the important questions set out above.

Term(s) offered: Spring term module; 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Credit: 3.0
General Education: III A or III B 2