Gender and Empire in Early Modern China

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1 or Year 2
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History

Module overview

This module explores the concepts of gender and empire in the context of China's early modern history.

While 'early modern' is a deliberately chosen, vague concept in the context of Chinese history, the focus will be on the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, straddling the transition from the Ming to the Qing dynasties. This period saw a significant territorial expansion of the Chinese state, a process we will look at this process through the lens of gender.

This includes political aspects such as imperial marriages and political appropriations of social customs, of which the cult of chastity is the prime example, the social world of the patriarchal family, transactions in people, and changing views on female suicide, the cultural realm of courtesans and male scholars, and the intimate history of footbinding.

Key questions will be about the ways in which these different gendered experiences were intertwined with the history of state building and imperial expansion.

Objectives and learning outcomes

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

  • a solid knowledge of the major issues and events in China's early modern history and to situate these within a broader context of imperial expansion.
  • evaluate different approachesto the study of Chinese history and to critically evaluate scholarly literature on the subject of the module.
  • understand the relationship between historical and gendered methodologies and negotiate an interdisciplinary approach.
  • formulate a historical argument, to assemble the material necessary to support it, and to organize and present it in a coherent and persuasive way.


2 hours of seminars a week.

Method of assessment

Essay of 3,000 words worth 75% of the final mark, Book review of 1,000 words worth 25% of the final mark


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules