Authority, Gender and Social Relations

Event Date: 
23 Jul 2018 to 25 Jul 2018






23-25 July 2018


The Durham Early Modern Studies Conference provides an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of the period 1450 to 1800. For the 2018 conference, we are focusing on the authority, gender and social relations. These are key subjects for anyone working on the early modern period. Viewed from outside, early modern societies often presented themselves as patriarchal, authoritarian totalities. But everyday practice was very different: women often had far greater autonomy and agency than patriarchal structures allowed. Poorer people were used to asserting themselves as subjects, litigants, rebels and petitioners. Dramatic texts, often seeming to restate authoritarian social and political conventions, frequently carried messages that allowed audiences and readers to reinterpret their social worlds in surprising ways.


This conference seeks to draw together work on authority, gender and social relations in early modern studies. We conceive of these concepts in their broadest sense and take them to include (but not necessarily be restricted to) the following:



  • Gender and class: useful categories of analysis?
  • Patriarchy and the household
  • Power in the landscape
  • Resistance and rebellion
  • Clientage, subordination, reciprocity and affinities
  • Communities and neighbourhoods
  • Archaeologies of authority
  • Archaeologies of community and place
  • Gender, belief and the body
  • Elites and society
  • Architecture, art and power
  • Landscapes and social topographies
  • Literary and dramatic representations of authority and resistance
  • Occupation and social structure
  • Labour discipline
  • Slavery, serfdom and unfree labour
  • Ethnicity and national identity
  • Religious radicalisms
  • Belief and hierarchy
  • Dress, demeanour and authority
  • Experiences of inequality: clothing, housing, food and diet



The first day of the conference will be given over to papers by postgraduate students, organized by the Medieval and Early Modern Students Association. Interdisciplinary approaches are welcome. We are keen to deal with transnational histories and with the history of the New World and with European relations with the rest of the globe. We welcome proposals both for individual papers and for panels comprising three 20-minute papers. Send proposals for papers (300 words) or panels (3x300 words, with a rationale for the panel) to:


Plenary speakers:

Jean Howard, George Delacorte Professor in the Humanities (Columbia University)

Matthew Johnson, Professor of Archaeology (Northwestern University)

Nicola Whyte, Senior Lecturer in Landscape History (Exeter University)


Conference Website

Submission date for papers: 
12 Jan 2018