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The Family and Gender Conflict

For discussion:

1. ‘The law was one thing, social practice quite another’. To what extent was this true of marriage formation and marital separation in this period?

2. Were the households of pre-industrial England ever a sphere of ‘rough and ready equality’ for women?

3. What determined the social esteem of women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?

4. Would you agree that the experience of women in early modern England was characterised by the paradox of a ‘restrictive ideology’ coexisting with a ‘permissive reality’ for women?

Introductory Surveys:

Amussen, S.D. ‘Gender, Family and the Social Order, 1560-1725’, in Anthony Fletcher and John Stevenson (eds), Order and Disorder in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1985), pp.196-217.

Reay, Barry. Popular Cultures in England, 1550-1750 (London, 1998), pp.4-35.

Wrightson, K.E. Earthly Necessities: Economic Lives in Early Modern Britain (New Haven, 2000), pp.30-68.

Detailed Studies:

Davies, K.M. ‘Continuity and Change in Literary Advice on Marriage’, in R.B. Outhwaite (ed), Marriage and Society: Studies in the Social History of Marriage (London, 1981), pp.58-80.

Underdown, David. ‘The Taming of the Scold: The Enforcement of Patriarchal Authority in Early Modern England’, in Anthony Fletcher and John Stevenson (eds), Order and Disorder in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1985), pp.116-36

Roberts, Michael. ‘“Words They Are Women and Deeds They Are Men”: Images of Work and Gender in Early Modern England ‘, in Lindsey Charles and Lorna Duffin (eds), Women and Work in Pre-Industrial England (London, 1985), pp.122-80.

Ingram, Martin. ‘Ridings, Rough Music and Mocking Rhymes in Early Modern England’, in Barry Reay (ed), Popular Culture in Seventeenth Century England (London, 1985), pp.166-97.

Houlbrooke, R.A. ‘Women’s Social Life and Common Action in England From the Fifteenth Century to the Eve of the Civil War’, Continuity & Change 1:2 (1986), 171-89.

Amussen, Susan. An Ordered Society: Gender and Class in Early Modern England (London, 1988).

Willen, Diane. ‘Women in the Public Sphere in Early Modern England: The Case of the Urban Working Poor’, Sixteenth-Century Journal 19:4 (1988), 559-75.

Roberts, Michael. ‘Women and Work in Sixteenth-Century English Towns’, in P.J. Corfield & Diane Keene (eds.), Work in Towns, 850-1850 (Leicester, 1990), pp.86-102.

Prest, W.R. ‘Law and Women’s Rights in Early Modern England’, The Seventeenth Century 6 (1991), 169-87.

Crawford, Patricia. ‘The Challenges to Patriarchalism: How Did the Revolution Affect Women?’in John Morrill (ed), Revolution and Restoration: England in the 1650s (London, 1992), pp.112-29.

Cressy, David. ‘Purification, Thanksgiving and the Churching of Women in Post-Reformation England’, Past & Present 141 (November 1993), 106-46.

Foyster, Elizabeth. ‘A Laughing Matter? Marital Discord and Gender Control in Seventeenth-Century England’, Rural History 4:1 (1993), 5-21.

Gowing, Laura. ‘Gender and the Language of Insult in Early Modern London’, History Workshop Journal 35 (Spring 1993), 1-21.

Erickson, Amy. Women and Property in Early Modern England (London, 1993).

Hindle, Steve. ‘The Shaming of Maragret Knowsley: Gossip, Gender and the Experience of Authority in Early Modern England’, Continuity & Change 9:3 (1994), 391-419.

Ingram, Martin. ‘“Scolding Women Cucked or Washed”: A Crisis in Gender Relations in Early Modern England’, in J.L. Kermode & Garthine Walker (eds),  Women, Crime and the Courts in Early Modern England (London, 1994), pp.48-80.

Fletcher, Anthony. ‘Men’s Dilemma: The Future of Patriarchy in England, 1560-1660’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6th ser., 4 (1994), 61-81.

Chaytor, Miranda. ‘Husband(ry): Narratives of rape in the Seventeenth Century’, Gender & History 7:3 (November 1995), 378-407.

Fletcher, Anthony. Gender, Sex and Subordination in England, 1500-1800 (New Haven, 1995).

Gowing, Laura. ‘Women, Status and the Popular Culture of Dishonour’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society sixth ser. 6 (1996), 225-34.

Walker, Garthine. ‘Expanding the Boundaries of Female Honour in Early Modern England’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society sixth ser. 6 (1996), 235-46.

Herrup, C.B. ‘The Patriarch at Home: The Trial of the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven for Rape and Sodomy’, History Workshop Journal 41 (Spring 1996), 1-18.

Herrup, C.B. ‘“To Pluck Bright Honour From the Pale-Faced Moon”: Gender and Honour in the Castlehaven Story’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6th ser. 6 (1996), 137-61.

Ingram, Martin J. ‘Juridical Folklore in England Illustrated by Rough Music’, in C.W. Brooks & Michael Lobban (eds.), Communities and Courts in Britain, 1150-1900 (London, 1997), pp.61-82.

Capp, Bernard. ‘The Double Standard Revisited: Plebeian Women and Male Sexual Reputation in Early Modern England’, Past & Present 162 (February 1999), 70-100.

Ingram, Martin J. ‘Sexual Manners: The Other Face of Civility in Early Modern England’, in Peter Burke, Brian Harrison and Paul Slack (eds), Civil Histories: Essays in Honour of Sir Keith Thomas (Oxford, 2000), pp.87-110.

Gowing, Laura. ‘”The Freedom of the Streets”: Women and Social Space, 1560-1640’, in Paul Griffiths and Mark S.R. Jenner (eds), Londinopolis: Essays in the Cultural and Social History of Early Modern London (Manchester, 2000), pp.130-51.

Gowing, Laura. ‘Ordering the Body: Illegitimacy and Female Authority in Seventeenth-Century England’, in Michael Braddick and John Walter (eds), Negotiating Power in Early Modern Society: Order, Hierarchy and Subordination in Britain and Ireland (Cambridge, 2001), pp.43-62.

Capp, Bernard. When Gossips Meet: Women, Family and Neighbourhood in Early Modern England (Oxford, 2003).

Gowing, Laura. Common Bodies: Women, Touch and Power in Seventeenth-Century England (New Haven, 2003).

Shepard, Alexandra. Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England (Oxford, 2003), chs.3 & 6.

Shepard, Alexandra. ‘Honesty, Worth and Gender in Early Modern England’, in Henry French and Jonathan Barry (eds), Identity and Agency in England, 1500-1800 (London, 2004), pp.87-105.

Shepard, Alexandra. ‘’”Swil-Bols and Tos-pots”: Drink Culture and Male Bonding in England, c.1560-1640’, in Laura Gowing, Michael Hunter &

Miri Rubin (eds), Love, Friendship and Faith in Europe, 1300-1800 (Basingstoke, 2005), pp.110-30.



1. On masculinity and male honour: Capp (1999); Shepard (2003/2005).

2. On femininity and female honour: Gowing (1996), Walker (1996), Capp (2003), Shepard (2004)