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Undergraduate Courses

Gender, Politics and Civil Society

Teacher responsible: Professor Mary Evans

One Unit

With the arrival of The Women’s Library at LSE, the Gender Institute is offering an innovative new course, available to all 2nd and 3rd year undergraduates, that draws on this remarkable collection. The Women’s Library holds an abundance of material, both written and visual, recording the social, political and economic changes in women’s lives and relations between women and men in the past 200 years. Gender, Politics and Civil Society will use this material as a resource through which students can learn both to use archive material and to employ that material not only to illustrate, but also to examine critically, assumptions about the past.

Examination for the course will be through a 10,000 word dissertation. Students will be free to choose a subject relating to any part of the course and will then use The Women’s Library holdings to explore that question, developing skills in original research and work on extended projects. Throughout the course students will be encouraged to consider debates about the social relations not only of gender but also of race and class and to locate those discussions within both national and international contexts.

Course Outline

Term 1

An introduction to the history of the Women’s Library; issues of inclusion and exclusion in the holdings.

The making of the categories of “male” and “female”, “masculinity” and “femininity”; the ways in which ideas about these identities were formed by moral discourses; the emergence of cults of domesticity and family life.

The campaigns and the circumstances that changed ideas about gender and the making of the gendered citizen. The part that ideas about citizenship and the nation were informed by expectations about gender.

Term 2

The making of the British Empire: the negotiation and the transformation of gender in a globalising world; ‘settling’ the Empire and defining the boundaries of citizenship. 

Politicising gender: the ways in which gender difference became a matter of politics and access to power. Fighting for, and against, transformations of gender roles and identities. The British campaign for suffrage and its connections with distinct traditions of social reform. 

Representing gender: accounts, visual and written, of women and men; changing views about the body and sexuality. Sexuality and religion, the expression of symbolic power. 


The course is open to all 2nd and 3rd year undergraduates from a range of undergraduate degrees. The course is inter-disciplinary and the course will cover issues relevant to all social sciences.


Ten hours of lectures and ten hours of classes in the Michaelmas term. Ten hours of lectures and ten hours of classes in the Lent term.                                          


There will be one formative assessment for this course, a research proposal that will be presented in class, identifying a research topic and outlining the material to be used from The Women’s Library. In this exercise, it is expected that students would encounter questions about ‘evidence’, as well as its strengths and limitations. The range of material in The Women’s Library covers a considerable range of subjects (in historical and social contexts) and would provide students with the opportunity to consider questions of research methods as well as working in a specialist area.

This dissertation will be the summative assessment and will fully contribute to the final grade students receive for the course. There is no exam for the course. The dissertation will be submitted on the first day of Summer term.

Indicative Readings

Alexander, S. (2000) ‘Men’s Fears and Women’s Work: Responses to Unemployment in London between the Wars’, Gender and History, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 401-425.

Hall, L. A. (2000) Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain since 1880, European Culture and Society Series, Palgrave Macmillan.

Lewis, J. (2002) The End of Marriage? Individualism and Intimate Relations, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.

Thane, P. and Evans, T. (2013) Sinners? Scroungers? Saints? Unmarried Motherhood in Twentieth-Century England, OUP Oxford.

Tosh, J. (2007) A Man’s Place: Masculinity and the Middle-class Home in Victorian England, Yale University Press.

Weeks, J. (1989) Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality Since 1800, Themes in British Social History, 2nd Edition, Longman.                                               

Accessing The Women's Library @ LSE

The Women's Library Reading Room is now open and it is situated on the fourth floor of the Library. 

A selection from The Women's Library @ LSE is accessible from the Digital Library online.