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Themes & Approaches to the Historical Study of Gender & Sexuality (HI996)


Dr. Liz Egan

Context of Module
Module Aims
Intended Learning Outcomes
Preliminary Bibliography
Context of Module

This optional module, taught over a 10-week term in the Spring, can be taken by students on the MA in Early Modern History, the MA in Modern History, the MA in Global and Comparative History, or the MA in the History of Medicine course.

Module Aims

This optional module is intended to give a critical overview of one of the fastest growing and most dynamic areas of modern historical enquiry - the history of gender and sexuality. It aims to provide students with an understanding of how feminist and queer history has emerged from earlier approaches to the study of history, what makes it distinctive and what its principal strengths and weaknesses might be. As an option taken by students across different MA streams, this module not only examines the range of historical methods and interpretations that constitute feminist and queer historical inquiry (from the early modern period to the present), but also looks at the usefulness of 'gender' and 'sexuality' as categories of analysis that can be investigated alongside other social grids and indexes of identity and in relation to different source-driven approaches to history. Each week students will read a seminal text for their core reading (often a theoretical rather than directly historical work), while the further reading will be more focused on a particular historical topic in which the ideas/ approaches in the core reading have been deployed by historians.

The aims of the module include:

  • To widen and deepen students’ understanding of themes in the study of gender and sexuality in history across chronological period and geographical area.
  • To introduce students to key texts and debates within the study of gender and sexuality.
  • To help students develop a conceptual and practical understanding of the skills of an historian of gender and sexuality
  • To help students hone their ability to formulate and achieve a piece of critical and reflective historiographical writing
Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to

  • Demonstrate an understanding of a longer chronological and broader geographic understanding of gender and sexuality as a thematic field of historical expertise.
  • Demonstrate a conceptual and practical understanding of the skills of an historian of gender and sexuality.
  • Demonstrate the ability to formulate and achieve a piece of critical and reflective historiographical writing.
  • Demonstrate the ability to undertake critical analysis. Demonstrate the ability to formulate and test concepts and hypotheses
Students must read all of the core reading and at least one item from the further reading in advance of the seminar. It will also be very helpful for them to consider the seminar questions in advance.

All reading is also available on talis but please refer to the links below for seminar questions etc.


This course is taught in weekly 2-hour seminars.

Week 1: Hidden from History? The beginnings of feminist and gay history (Liz Egan)

Week 2: The 'Invention' of the Homosexual in the West (Nathalie Hanley-Smith)

Week 3: Sexual Violence (Susan Curruthers)

Week 4: Gender and Sexuality Before Modernity (Jonathan Davies)

Week 5: Decolonising Gender and Sexuality (Liz Egan)

Week 6: Reading Week (no seminar)

Week 7: Gender, Capitalism and Class (Liz Egan)

Week 8: Transnational Feminism (Rebecca Stone)

Week 9: Gender/ Nation/ Borders (Anca Cretu)

Week 10: Intersectionality (Rebecca Stone)


One 6000 word assessed essay, to be submitted at the end of the spring vacation (see handbook for exact deadline).

You can either choose a seminar question as your essay title or make up your own, but if you choose the latter please email the module convenor to approve the title. You can choose to focus on a particular case study/ historical period or topic, and then bring in some of the theories that you have learnt on the module to illuminate this historical focus. Or you can choose to focus the essay primarily on a particular theoretical approach to gender and sexuality, and then bring in some historical examples or a single case study to illustrate your arguments. Either approach is fine.

Tutors: Liz Egan
Term: Spring Term