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A Cultural History of Women

6 Volumes

      A Cultural History of Women in Antiquity explores women’s history in the West from 500 BCE to 1000CE. This time period includes women's participation in Greek and Roman civilization, and the Christianization of the Roman Empire up to Late Antiquity. Key issues include the impact of changing cultural forces and discourses on female autonomy and agency, women's relationship to public and religious circles of power, and women's status in domestic and public space.

      A Cultural History of Women in Antiquity presents an overview of the period with essays on female sexual practices, literacy, education and work, medical treatments and authority, ritual office and superstitious practices, cultural transitions and representation, and differences between ideology and actual social practices in identifying women's use of public and private space.

      The medieval era has been described as ‘the ‘Age of Chivalry’ and ‘the Age of Faith’ but also as ‘the Dark Ages’. Medieval women have often been viewed as subject to a punishing misogyny which limited their legal rights and economic activities, but some scholars have claimed they enjoyed a ‘rough and ready equality’ with men. The contrasting figures of Eve and the Virgin Mary loom over historians’ interpretations of the period 1000-1500. Yet a wealth of recent historiography goes behind these conventional motifs, showing how medieval women’s lives were shaped by status, age, life-stage, geography and religion as well as by gender.

      A Cultural History of Women in the Middle Ages presents essays on medieval women’s life cycle, bodies and sexuality, religion and popular beliefs, medicine and disease, public and private realms, education and work, power, and artistic representation to illustrate the diversity of medieval women's lives and constructions of femininity.

      The Renaissance was a period of significant cultural transformation in Europe: women were both agents and objects of this historical process. The period witnessed revolutions in nearly every cultural domain, including the controversies of the Reformation, the rise of nascent capitalism, the influence of Humanism, advances in science and medicine, and shifts in the boundaries between public and private life, all of which profoundly affected women’s lives.

      A Cultural History of Women in the Renaissance covers the period 1400-1650, giving an overview of how changes in social, educational, economic, scientific, religious and artistic paradigms affected cultural constructions of gender and the lived experiences of women in the period. Each chapter draws on a wide range of sources to chart the complex and often contradictory cultural logics of gender in Renaissance culture.

      The Enlightenment was a complex and often contradictory moment for women in Europe and its colonies. The period between 1680 and 1800 saw civil liberties established through political and intellectual revolution. At the same time, contemporary thinkers produced justifications for ongoing gender, class, and racial inequalities which had profound effects on women. An age of burgeoning commercial and imperial expansion, the period witnessed the birth of consumer society and the peak of the Atlantic slave trade. Modern liberal feminism grew up in this environment, as did the abolition movement, early racial science and, incipiently, the science of sexuality.

      A Cultural History of Women in the Age of Enlightenment examines the ways in which women in differing national and social contexts negotiated the challenging cultural terrain of emergent modernity. The volume presents essays on women's life cycle, bodies and sexuality, religion and popular beliefs, medicine and disease, public and private realms, education and work, power, and artistic representation.

      Between 1800 and 1920, middle-class women in the West fought for education, employment, equitable marriage and custody laws, and the vote. Poor women demanded literacy, labor and child protection laws, food, and shelter. Colonization and migrations compounded gender and class conflicts in contact zones where races and ethnic groups met, often violently. Faced with breath-taking social, global, and technological change, many women valiantly worked with and for one another. Key issues include growing attention to late life, discourses of heterosexuality and homosexuality, the rise of the writing woman, and the challenges to women professionals, from artists to physicians.

      A Cultural History of Women in the Age of Empire presents essays on women’s life cycle, bodies and sexuality, religion and popular beliefs, medicine and disease, public and private realms, education and work, power, and artistic representation

      The dramatic changes of the 20th century propelled women into unprecedented circumstances. The entrance of women into public space, particularly through their involvement in the labour market, fundamentally changed meanings of feminine identity across the globe. Massive migration created encounters between women of different ethnicities, beliefs, and allegiances. This displacement produced an exchange of critical ideas and technologies between women across cultures, between women and the state, and between the demands of homemaking and workplaces.

      Women were impacted by diverse factors including urbanisation, industrialisation, mass-migration and communication, the intervention of the nation-state in the duties of home and childraising, totalitarian political regimes and decolonisation, eugenics and contraception, medicine, AIDS and feminism. A Cultural History of Women in the Modern Age spans the 20th century with essays on changing ideas of the fetus, female orgasm, faith and forms of worship, pathology and technological intervention, the labour market, feminism and power, and challenges to the artistic canon by women of colour.