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Gender, War and Empire in British Society 1750-1930

Third Year Module

Module Leader: Dr Louise Carter

The module will explore how and why ideas about gender were utilised to propel and legitimise Britains martial and imperial projects between 1750 and the 1930s, yet simultaneously also had the potential to undermine these very ventures. The module will consider both the ways in which discourse and ideas about gender, war and empire interacted, and the roles that actual men and women played in imperial and martial endeavours at home and abroad. The intersection of gender with other markers of identity and hierarchy, especially race and class, will be another key feature of analysis. It will take a chronological path from the 1750s to the 1930s and will consider topics such as gendered expectations in wartime, propaganda and representation, trade and consumption, slavery, emigration and immigration, race and sexuality, pacifism and heroism. Students will be encouraged to assess the benefits and limitations of analysing war and empire through a gendered lens, and to evaluate the fresh and vibrant historiographical debates in this field. The module will also provide students with the opportunity to critically evaluate and assess a range of visual and textual primary sources.

The module will take a chronological path from the mid-eighteenth century through to the 1930s, examining the impact of ideas about gender on the martial and imperial endeavours of the British nation. It will cover issues such as the role of gender in wartime propaganda, the tensions between peacetime and wartime ideas of masculinity and femininity, the role of gender in the slave trade and the campaign to repeal it, the gendered nature of imperial migration, the intersection of ideas about gender, race and class in imperial conquest and governance and the impact of such interactions on British society itself.It will range across a number of conflicts including the Seven Years War, the War of American Independence, the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, the Second Boer War and the First World War. It will also span a broad geographic range from domestic British society to white settler colonies such as Australia, Canada and South Africa and colonies of occupation in India, East Africa and the West Indies. Students will be encouraged to assess the value of the historiographical and methodological approaches categorised as new imperial history, as well as the benefits or limitations of the cultural turn in military history. In addition to engaging with a range of historiographical approaches and debates, students will also be introduced to a variety of primary source texts and visual images.


Learning and Teaching Strategies:

This module will be delivered through a combined weekly lecture andseminar plus tutorial support. Where appropriate supporting resources will also be made available online. Seminar sessions will be designed to encourage student participation and will support students in strengthening their skills of presentation, discussion, argument and debate, and in evaluating, interpreting and using secondary and primary sources.




Weighting %


Submission Date

Gender, War and Empire

Individual presentation



10 minutes and handouts of not less than 2 sides of A4

As scheduled


Document commentary



Week 9



2 Hours

End of semester 


Recommended introductory reading:

P.Levine, (ed.), Gender and Empire, (Oxford, 2004)


Further Reading

N.B. A full reading list is included in a module handbook which will be provided in the first week of teaching

J.Bourke, Dismembering the Male: Mens Bodies, Britain and the Great War, (London, 1996)

L.Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism: War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity, (London, 2005)

J.Bush, Edwardian Ladies and Imperial Power, (Leicester, 2000)

G.Dawson, Soldier Heroes: British Adventure, Empire and the Imagining of Masculinity, (London, 1994)

A.Forrest, J.Rendall and K.Hagemann (eds.), Soldiers, Citizens and Civilians: Experiences and Perceptions of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars 1790-1820, (Basingstoke, 2008)

D.Ghosh, Sex and the Family in Colonial India: The Making of Empire, (Oxford, 2006)

J.Goldstein, War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa, (Cambridge, 2001)

C.Hall and S.Rose (eds.), At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World, (Cambridge, 2006)

R.W.Jones, Literature, Gender and Politics in Britain during the War for America 1770-1785, (Cambridge, 2011)

P.M.Krebs, Gender, Race, and the Writing of Empire: Public Discourse and the Boer War, (Cambridge, 1999)

J.A.Lynn II, Women, Armies and Warfare in Early Modern Europe, (Cambridge, 2008)

J.Meyer, Men of War: Masculinity and the First World War in Britain, (Basingstoke, 2008)

C.Midgley, Feminism and Empire: Women Activists in Imperial Britain, (London, 2007)

T.W.Nechtman, Nabobs: Empire and Identity in Eighteenth Century England, (Cambridge, 2010)

L.Noakes, Women in the British Army 1907-1948, (London, 2006)

M.Roper, The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the First World War, (Manchester, 2009)

E.Rothschild, The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth-Century History, (Princeton, 2011)

J.Tosh, Manliness and Masculinities in Nineteenth Century Britain: Essays on Gender, Family and Empire, (London, 2004)

J.Valente, The Myth of Manliness in Irish National Culture 1880-1922, (Illinois, 2011)

K.Wilson, Island Race: Englishness, Empire and Gender in the Eighteenth Century, (London, 2002)

A.Woollacott, Gender and Empire, (Basingstoke, 2006)