Summer 2016 - HIST 336 D100

Ideas and Society in Early Modern Europe (4)

Class Number: 5358

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 9:30 AM – 1:20 PM
    AQ 5118, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history. Recommended: HIST 223 or 224.



An examination of intellectual developments of early modern Europe (sixteenth to eighteenth centuries) in their broader social, cultural, political or economic contexts. The course will focus on a particular subject e.g. Northern humanism, debates about the nature and social role of women (the querelle de femmes), the Enlightenment. Students will read excerpts from important contemporary sources.


The Debate about Gender and Identity

Formally known as the querelle des femmes, the “quarrel about women” dominated debates about gender identity in early modern Europe (1500-1800). Women and men argued about various questions. Were women incapable of intellectual thought or were they at least as intelligent as men and therefore did they deserve to be educated? Did women undermine or safeguard social and moral norms?

We shall begin our study of early modern female identities with a survey of the biological, economic, cultural, spiritual, and political contexts in which women found themselves. Once we have grounded ourselves in the essential historical context, we shall analyze contributions to the debate by early modern women and men. Classroom meetings will consist of a mix of lectures and interactive discussions.


After completing this course, you should be able to

  • identify the main social contexts in which early modern European women operated and the ideas that governed these social contexts
  • explain why gender is a useful category of historical analysis
  • analyze and evaluate specific positions, accessible in primary sources, in the early modern European debate about women, gender, and identity
The assessment of these outcomes will take several forms: regular class participation and a group presentation that facilitates class discussion of an aspect of the debate, two tests that will evaluate your grasp of essential information about the way in which the interaction of ideas and society affected early modern European women, a short essay in which you will analyze two secondary sources, a longer essay in which you will draw on several primary sources and some secondary sources, and a bibliography assignment that will prepare you for the longer essay.


  • Participation 10%
  • Group presentation in Weeks 7 to 12 10%
  • Two tests (10% each: 8 June, 27 July) 20%
  • Essay 1 (1000-1500 words, due 15 June) 20%
  • Annotated Bibliography (due 6 July) 10%
  • Essay 2 (2000-2500 words, due 3 August) 30%



Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks-Hanks, Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe, 3rd edition (2008)

Juan Luis Vives, The Education of a Christian Woman: A Sixteenth-Century Manual (2000)

Lucrezia Marinella, The Nobility and Excellence of Women and the Defects and Vices of Men (1999)

Gabrielle Suchon, A Woman who Defends all the Persons of Her Sex (2010)

François Poullain de la Barre, Three Cartesian Feminist Treatises (2002)

Registrar Notes:

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site contains information on what is meant by academic dishonesty and where you can find resources to help with your studies.  There is also a section on tutoring.