SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

H296 From Courtesans to Suffragettes: Women in Chinese History, 1600s-1910s

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

This module will proceed thematically and chronologically. It will start with the social and political history of courtesan culture in the late Ming period. The 'prosperous age' of the expanding Qing empire of the eighteenth century will be explored through the study of women's social relations, education, and their status more generally. For the last century of Qing rule, the focus will be on female experiences in crisis situations, such as the Taiping civil war and the North-China famine of the 1870s. The cultural, social, and political meanings of female virtue and foot-binding will be examined, as well as common social practices such as the sale of people and infanticide. The module will end with the key role of women in the late nineteenth-century reforms, the debates about female education, and ultimately the struggle against patriarchal structures and for female political participation in the final decade of Qing rule and beyond.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  • demonstrate a solid knowledge and understanding of gender issues as they played out in and interacted with China's early modern history;

  • show advanced skills in researching and writing historical essays, delivering seminar presentations and thinking critically about historical issues;

  • demonstrate an awareness of the historical antecedents of gender issues in today's China their contemporary significance.

Method of assessment

  • Practiocal assessments throughout the module at 30%
  • Seminar participation at 10%
  • One Essay (3,000 words) at 60%


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules