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:
This module is expected to run every other year
FHEQ Level:
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

LO1) demonstrate a solid knowledge and understanding of women’s and gender issues as they are manifest in China's early modern history;
LO2) engage critically with the relevant academic literature;
LO3) show advanced skills in the formulation of historical arguments in oral and written form.

Method of assessment

  • 1,500-word reading journal (20%)
  • 1,500-word reading journal (20%)
  • 2,000-word essay (60%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules