Women Issues What Did the Author Intend To Do

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Women in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800

Fall Semester 2013


Essay Assignment I:  Evaluative Review of a Scholarly Article


Advice about doing this assignment


Your review should address the following classic questions: 1) what did the author intend to do?; 2) how, and how well, did s(he) do it?; 3) was it worth doing?


To answer question one you should NOT just summarize the article (no more than ½ a page). It is more important to discuss what the author intended the reader to learn from reading the article. Usually the author states this in the first couple of pages or sometimes the conclusion. This is not necessarily the “thesis” – rather an explanation of why the author thought it necessary to write the article. Then you discuss how they did it. Does the author situate his or her article in the context of other works on the topic? It is common for articles to be written in response to or to build on the work of other scholars. Is that the case here? Or does the author argue that she/he is writing about a whole new topic, or new interpretation. You may also want to consider what audience the author intended to address:  think about the journal in which the article appeared. The audience for the Gender & History will likely be different from the audience for the Journal of Modern History. Does the article address academic colleagues who already know something about the subject or more general readers, etc.?


To answer question two (how…) you will need to think about the sources of evidence the author has used, and how he or she has mobilized them to achieve the intent of the book.  Look at the footnotes.  Does the author cite mainly the work of other historians, or mainly manuscripts in archives.  If so, what kinds of sources has he/she used (i.e. books, court records, church records, personal letters or diaries?)  Try to figure out what archives are cited.  Perhaps the author is using mainly a collection of letters or printed texts (books, ballads, chapbooks, music).  Or perhaps the most important source is a piece of literature.


Has the author used the evidence effectively to make the argument, or to entertain the reader, or just to convey substantial amounts of data and information, or all of these?  Think about what historians call methodology.  Was the approach mainly in terms of numbers, probably presented in tables; or was the argument mainly based on quotations from letters or government documents?  Does the author actually tell you what methodology he/she is using; or are you left to figure that out yourself?  In thinking about this also remember that you (and the reader of your review) may be looking for things that were not central to the author’s articulated intention.  Thus in addition to asking how well the author fulfilled her intention, you need to go on to ask how useful is the book from the point of view of particular issues such as women’s lives or differences between women addressed in this class.


This will lead you toward answering the third question.  Was it worth doing?  Was it worth your time in reading the article (or the author’s time in writing it) in terms of what you learned overall, and in terms of what you learned about women’s lives and gender relations in the period the article addresses?  Is the article mainly important for what you learned about women, or does it also illuminate other issues such as imperialism, politics or religion?


Although the author’s style is a factor in effectively communicating with her audience, don’t spend more than a line or two on commenting on this.  Most academic articles are quite dense with tightly packed facts and argument.  Use short quotations to support favourable or unfavourable comments primarily about the author’s use of evidence. Nobody ever won literary prizes for academic journal-writing. You may also want to comment on the organizational structure, etc.  What was particularly effective in the article?  Were there parts that were less effective or weak?  (But remember, it is not always necessary to find something negative to say in a review).  Give short specific examples to support your comments.


Give your review a title that reflects the main theme of your review.  Try to use an opening sentence that intrigues your reader, or sums up what was important about the article and suggests the overall perspective of your review.


Use a footnote to cite the article the first time you refer to it. Then further footnotes to refer to specific pages you discuss or from which you quote (these will probably be ibid, p….).  Unless you cite other works for comparison (which is not required) there is no need to include a bibliography page.


There is no need for a separate title page. This just wastes space. Put your name, student number and the course number in the upper right corner of page one.   All work must be submitted online through Blackboard.


Essay Assignment I:  Evaluative Review of a Scholarly Article

List of Articles for this Assignment


This assignment asks you to write an essay, no longer than three double-spaced typed pages (i.e. 900 words) in which you evaluate ONE of the following scholarly articles from academic journals.  Your evaluation should focus on the author’s argument(s) and the use made of supporting sources.  How effective is the article in enhancing the reader’s understanding of gender and women’s history?


All of these articles are available online.


16th century

Darlene Abreu-Ferreira, “Fishmongers and shipowners: women in maritime communities of early modern Portugal”, Sixteenth Century Journal, 1:1 (2000) 7-23.

Susan Broomhall, “’Women’s little secrets’: defining the boundaries of reproductive knowledge in sixteenth-century France”, Social History of Medicine, 15:1 (2002) 1-15.

Monica Chojnacka, “Women, men and residential patterns in early modern Venice,” Journal of Family History, 25:2 (2000) 6-26. [also something in gender & history abt Venitian space]

Alison Rowlands, “Witchcraft and old women in early modern Germany”, Past & Present, 132 (2001) 50-89.

Jutta Sperling, “Marriage at the time of the Council of Trent (1560-70): clandestine marriages, kinship prohibitions and dowry exchange in European comparison”, Journal of Early Modern History, 8:1/2 (2004) 67-108.

Lyndan Warner, “Remembering the mother, presenting the stepmother: portraits of the early modern family in northern Europe”, Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 6(2011) 93-126. No Iter access






17th century

Gayle Brunelle, “Policing the monopolizing women of early modern Nantes”, Journal of Women’s History, 19:2 (2007) 10-35.

Elizabeth S. Cohen, “To pray, to work, to hear, to speak: women in Roman streets c.1600”, Journal of Early Modern History, 12:3/4 (2008) 289-311.

Amy Louise Erickson, “Coverture and capitalism”[in England], History Workshop Journal, 59:1 (2005) 1-16.

Silvia Evangelisti, “To find God in work? Female social stratification in early modern Italian convents”, European History Quarterly, 38:3 (2008) 398-416.

Cathy McCarthy, “The hidden truths of the belly: the uncertainties of pregnancy in early modern Europe”, Social History of Medicine, 15:2 (2002) 209-227.

Zoe Schneider, “Women before the bench: female litigants in early modern Normandy”, French Historical Studies, 23:1 (2000) 1-33.


18th century

Clare Haru Crowston, “The Queen and her ‘minister of fashion’: gender, credit and politics in pre-revolutionary France”, Gender & History, 14:1 (2002) 92-116.

Tanya Evans, “’Unfortunate objects’: London’s unmarried mothers in the eighteenth century”, Gender & History, 17:1 (2005) 127-153.

Marc C. Forster, “Space, gender and honor in [German] village taverns”, Food & History, 7:2 (2009) 15-28.

Nicole Pohl, “’Perfect reciprocity:’ [French] salon culture and epistolary conversations”, Women’s Writing, 13:1 (2006) 119-136. (???)

Bianca Primo, “Before the law: women’s petitions in the eighteenth century Spanish empire”, Comparative Studies in Society & History, 53:2 (2011) 261-289.

Londa Schiebinger, “Why mammals are called mammals: gender politics in eighteenth-century natural history”, American Historical Review, 98 (1993) 382-411.