Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST20A1: Constructing Identities: Gender, Sexuality and Age in England

Department: History

HIST20A1: Constructing Identities: Gender, Sexuality and Age in England

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level 1 module in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to the history of gender relations, sexual identity, and age in England c.1600-1850.
  • To explore early modern attitudes towards gender and sexuality, and the ways in which these intersected with concepts of age and experiences of the life cycle.
  • To develop students' ability to evaluate a wide range of sources.


  • The module explores gender relations in early modern England. It begins by considering the associations that were made between gender and biological sex, and asking whether new ideas about human physiology altered perceptions of femininity and masculinity. It considers the ways in which the cultural and physical distinctions made between men and women were age-related. It asks to what extent marriage was an essential element of manliness, and if womanhood was synonymous with motherhood. It looks at the patriarchal structures of society and how they influenced attitudes towards gender roles. It also examines the socialisation of girls and boys, the distinct opportunities offered to male and female youths, and gendered experiences of old age. Finally, it considers how ideas of femininity and masculinity transcended the distinctions between gender and sexuality, looking at projected norms alongside illicit sexualities that breached the boundaries imposed by legal sanctions and moral proscription. It examines the consequences of a growing emphasis on binary categories of male and female, and questions whether there was an early modern sexual revolution, and if the idea of sexual identity was an eighteenth-century invention.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A knowledge of key historiographical debates surrounding the concepts of gender, sexuality, and age in early-modern England.
  • An understanding of contested contemporary notions of gender and how these related to both sexuality and age.
  • A sensitivity to the problems of interpreting evidence relating to underrepresented sections of early-modern society, whether LGBT, women, the young, or the elderly.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be introduced to primary source analysis, and should gain preliminary skills to evaluate both archival and oral historical sources.
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/ModuleProformaMap/

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Unseen Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Assessment of Primary Source Handling Students are assessed on their understanding of original primary sources, usually in print, their character varying according to the nature of the subject, and the students' ability to bring that knowledge to bear on 'cutting edge' research-based monographs and articles. Students are given the opportunity to discuss and articulate an understanding of changing interpretations and approaches to historical problems, drawing evidence from a body of primary source materials. Students are required to demonstrate skills associated with the evaluation of a variety of primary source materials, using documentary analysis for a critical assessment of existing historical interpretations.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 16 in Term 1 1 hour 16
Seminars 7 7 in Term 1 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 177
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography 100%
Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment or assignments 1000 words total, not including footnotes and bibliography where relevant 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative benefits from the 1000 word summative assignment and from work done during and in preparation for seminars.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University