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Feminism, Politics, and Social Change in Modern Britain (HI31X)

Office Hours:
Dr Laura Schwartz
Monday and Tuesday 12 noon (Term time only, excluding reading week)
Monday 1pm-3pm FAB1.08; Wednesday 1pm-3pm room TBC


This 30 CATS final-year Advanced Option module will provide students with an overview of the politics of feminism and its relationship to changing gender roles in modern Britain. It will introduce students to themes key to feminism within a wider historical context, especially class, race and sexuality. The module will look at religion and secularisation; the rise of the birth control movement and debates over freedom of sexual expression; tensions of class and race within feminist movements; transnational feminist connections; and the role of the imperial context in shaping feminist ideas and identities. Its broad chronological reach will aim to overcome artificial distinctions between ‘first’, ‘second’ and ‘third’ waves, and encourage students to identify and historicise common currents within feminist thought, as well as turning points and ruptures.

Each seminar will approach feminist political thought alongside an assessment of the ‘realities’ of women’s lives in Britain. Attention will be paid to how social movements emerge, operate and are responded to both by individuals and the state. The module will deepen history undergraduates’ experience of historiography. It will examine the impact of feminism on the discipline of history and the methodological challenges of writing histories of social movements which transcend boundaries between intellectual, social, oral and cultural history. The module will therefore combine use of primary sources (including political texts, oral histories, and film and visual sources) with a thorough grounding in the historiography of gender and feminism and an introduction to some of the theoretical models used to understand the formation of identities, subjectivities and political agency.