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Women in Early Modern Italy 1300-1700 (Online) (10 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

This course explores women in the social, cultural, religious, political and economic developments of early modern Italy. Focusing on a range of primary sources that highlight the roles of women in Italy at this time, students will consider the ideal and the reality of Renaissance woman, who was ‘chaste, silent, and obedient’.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

Students will need to be able to confidently use videoconferencing software and be comfortable with using websites.

Special Information

In order to participate in this course, you will need access to a computer with a speaker, microphone and a good internet connection. An internet browser is required to access the online learning platform. Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are the recommended browsers.

Content of Course

1. The Worth of Women: Historiographical background and an introduction to women’s legal and social status, c. 1300-1700. 

2. Marriage customs and dowries. Widowhood and old age.

3. Women’s health, medicine and healing. Pregnancy, childbirth, midwives and wet nurses. 

4. Literacy and education. Elite women.

5. Women at work. 

6. Religious orthodoxy and heterodoxy.

7. Convents and lay sisters.

8. Unruly women: social misfits, crime and war.

9. Elite and popular performance (art, music, theatre, poetry).

10. Drawing conclusions: Continuities and changes.

Teaching method(s)

This course will be delivered via available online materials and live online sessions.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  • Show an understanding of the roles and relations of women and men in early modern Italian society at a time of cultural, political, religious and social change when Italy was widely affected by episodes of crisis and open war;

  • Demonstrate critical awareness of key contemporary works, including several from “The Other Voice” series by women writers in early modern Italy (c. 1300-1700), but also male-authored works, such as Baldesar Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier;

  • Recognise the historical context of the history of women in early modern Italy: in European history and in the history of women more broadly.


Core Readings

Students should not purchase books until the course is confirmed to run, and their teacher instructs them to do so.

  • Caferro, W., 2011. Contesting the Renaissance. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Chapter 3 “Gender: Who Was the Renaissance Woman?”, pp. 61-97.

  • Campbell, J., Stampino, M., 2011. In Dialogue with the Other Voice in Sixteenth-Century Italy: Literary and Social Contexts for Women's Writing. Toronto; Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies.

  • Chojnacka, M., 2001. Working women of early modern Venice. Baltimore; London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

  • Cox, Virginia, 2011. The Prodigious Muse: Women’s Writing in Counter-Reformation Italy. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

  • Duni, M., 2007. Under the Devil's Spell: Witches, Sorcerers, and the Inquisition in Renaissance Italy. Florence: Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press.

  • Jacobsen Schutte, A., Kuehn, T., Seidel Menchi S. (eds), 2001. Time, Space, and Women’s Lives in Early Modern Europe. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press.

  • Laven, Mary., 2004. Virgins of Venice: Broken Vows and Cloistered Lives in the Renaissance Convent. New York: Penguin Books.

  • Musacchio, J., 1999. The Art and Ritual of Childbirth in Renaissance Italy. New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

  • Shemek, D., 1998. Ladies Errant: Wayward Women and Social Order in Early Modern Italy. Durham: Duke University Press.

  • Strocchia, Sharon, 2009. Nuns and Nunneries in Renaissance Florence. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.