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Gender history is a sub-field of history and gender studies, which looks at the past from the perspective of gender. It is in many ways, an outgrowth of women's history. The discipline considers in what ways historical events and periodization impact women differently from men. For instance, in a seminal article in 1977 Joan Kelly questioned whether the notion of a Renaissance was relevant to women. [1] Gender historians are also interested in how sexual difference has been perceived and configured at different times and places, usually with the assumption that such differences are socially constructed.


Despite its relatively short life, Gender History (and its forerunner Women's History) has had a rather significant effect on the general study of history. Since the 1960s, when the initially small field first achieved a measure of acceptance, it has gone through a number of different phases, each with its own challenges and outcomes, but always making an impact of some kind on the historical discipline. Although some of the changes to the study of history have been quite obvious, such as increased numbers of books on famous women or simply the admission of greater numbers of women into the historical profession, other influences are more subtle, even though they may be more politically groundbreaking in the end.

Within the Profession[edit]

According to historian Joan Scott, conflict occurred between Women's History historians and other historians in a number of ways.[2] In the American Historical Association, when feminists argued that female historians were treated unequally within the field and underrepresented in the association, they were essentially leveling charges of historical negligence by traditional historians. Notions of professionalism were not rejected outright, but they were accused of being biased.

Supplementary History[edit]

According to Scott, the construction of Women's History as "supplementary" to the rest of history had a similar effect. At first glance, a supplement simply adds information which has been missing from the greater story, but as Scott points out, it also questions why the information was left out in the first place. Whenever it is noticed that a woman found to be missing from written history, Women's History first describes her role, second, examines which mechanisms allowed her role to be omitted, and third, asks to what other information these mechanisms were blind.

Gender Theory[edit]

Finally, the advent of gender theory once again challenged commonly held ideas of the discipline, including those scholars studying Women's History. Post-modern criticism of essentialising socially constructed groups, be they gender groups or otherwise, pointed out the weaknesses in various sorts of history. In the past, historians have attempted to describe the shared experience of large numbers of people, as though these people and their experiences were homogeneous and uniform. Women have multiple identities, influenced by any number of factors including race and class, and any examination of history which conflates their experiences, fails to provide an accurate picture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Did Women have a Renaissance?" Becoming Visible: Women in European History. Houghton Mifflin, 1977.
  2. ^ "Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis," American Historical Review 91, No. 5 (December 1986).

Further reading[edit]

  • Riley, Denise. “Am I That Name?” Feminism and the Category of “Women” in History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988.
  • Rose, Sonya O. What is Gender History?. Malden, Mass.: Polity Press, 2010.
  • Scott, Joan Wallach. Gender and the Politics of History. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.
  • Zemon Davis, Natalie. “ ‘Women’s History’ in Transition: The European Case.” Feminist Studies 3, no. 3–4 (1976):

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_history — Please support Wikipedia.
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