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HIST376: Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe

Class research guide for HIST376: Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe, curated by liaison librarian

Welcome to Your Research Guide for HIST376!


Recommended Encyclopedias

Recommended Databases

Using the Web for Background Info: A Few Tips

  • If you do use Wikipedia as a starting point, check out the references and be sure that those are credible and authoritative.
  • Look for an "expert" (and more objective) organization or association website related to your topic.
  • You may also try to find a governmental website (U.S. or international) that is connected to your research question.

Primary Sources

Primary sources were either created during the time period being studied or were created at a later date by a participant in the events being studied (as in the case of memoirs).  They reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer.  Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period; some types of primary sources might be historical magazines or newspapers, diaries or journals, old photographs, interviews, letters, and more. A secondary source is a work that interprets or analyzes an historical event or phenomenon.  It is generally at least one step removed from the event and is often based on primary sources.  Examples include:  scholarly or popular books and articles, reference books, and textbooks.

All databases utilize taxonomies, or set ways to organize information. Many academic resources utilize controlled vocabularies developed by the Library of Congress. Their subject headings, or subject terms, are useful to learn and remember and make finding primary source material much easier.

Calvin's library catalog, and many of its databases, use Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). Below are several terms or phrases related to first-person accounts that you can add to a keyword or subject search that will significantly narrow your search results, saving you valuable time.

  • Personal Narratives
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Manuscripts
  • Sources

Examples: (when searching do not include the dashes/hyphens)

  • Europe -- History -- 17th century -- Personal Narratives
  • Women -- Germany -- Social conditions -- 18th century -- Sources
  • Women -- England -- Diaries

Note: Most of these titles can be found through the library catalog.

A series of primary sources by and about early modern women:

  • The series “The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe” contains over 100 primary sources written by and about early modern women. Calvin own over 100 of these titles, and the others are available through MELCAT or ILL. [note: many of the MeLCat titles are electronic, therefore not loanable]. To see the titles Calvin owns, select “Other Voice in Early Modern Europe”
  • For a complete list of all titles in the series (unfortunately in two separate parts), see and (The link in Wiesner, 49, seems faulty.)

Anthologies of primary sources by and about women:

Social and legal history (anthologies of legal and documentary sources):

Sources on women on trial:

Witch trials and Inquisition trials are some of the richest sources for early modern social history. Tempel Anneke, which you have, is one great source. The collections below feature multiple trial documents.

For anthologies of sources on the witch trials, see the list on Wiesner, p. 273.

Early modern arguments about women’s roles and women’s nature:

(Also see others listed in Wiesner, 49.)

Sources by women religious thinkers and reformers:

Other Protestant women: see primary sources listed in Wiesner, p. 249. Many of the anthologies of English women listed above also contain works by Protestant women.

Sources by women in (and around) court politics:

  • Elizabeth I, Collected Works, ed. Leah Marcus (not only a great monarch, but a brilliant writer)
  • Marie and Hortense Mancini, Memoirs (from the court of Louis XIV), ed. Sarah Nelson.
  • Other French memoirists: Catherine de’ Medici; Marguerite de Valois; Charlotte Arbaleste de Mournay
  • María de Guevara, Warnings to the Kings and Advice on Restoring Spain. ed. Nieves Romero-Díaz


Learned women and proto-feminist authors (most of these women wrote multiple works):

  • Elisabeth of Bohemia (1618-80, granddaughter of James I of England, Princess of Bohemia), amateur philosopher and correspondent of René Descartes—see her correspondence with him, ed. Lisa Shapiro)
  • Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1624-74), memoirist and amateur scientist
  • Ana Maria van Schurman (1607-78), polymathic Dutch scholar, first woman to attend university
  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-95), Mexican nun, poet, playwright, social critic Reply to Sor Filotea:
  • Mary Astell (1666–1731), English philosopher and advocate of women’s education
  • Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97), mother of Mary Shelley, antagonist of Rousseau)
  • María de Zayas y Sotomayor (Spanish novelist, challenged “Golden Age” gender conventions)
  • Olympe de Gouges (Marie Gouze, 1748-93), advocate of female political rights in French Revolution


Miscellaneous (other interesting memoirs on various female lifestyles):