Gender, Politics and Materiality in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800

Lead Research Organisation: University of Plymouth
Department Name: Sch of Humanities & Performing Arts

Abstract

This international and transdisciplinary network brings together four nodes to explore the theme of gender, power and materiality in early modern Europe. Its establishment is timely, developing from two international conferences on gender and politics in early modern Europe organised by the PI and CI since 2008. From these events emerged a group of scholars with shared interests in letters, gender and political culture, which expanded into materiality, specifically as it relates to early modern archives and gift-giving. In this context, the network studies relationships between gender, power and materiality, defined both in terms of physical objects or material texts and the social and cultural practices, and spaces in which they were produced, consumed, exchanged and displayed. It focusses on different forms of elite power across the early modern period in Europe, and encompasses formal and cultural power.
Influenced by the 'material turn', the network considers objects as social agents, analysing the gendered power embedded within physical artefacts and the social practices of production, consumption and exchange, especially in relation to early modern practices and modern theories of gift-giving. It questions how far materiality made gender positions stable and unstable; and studies objects to reconstruct new networks and gendered forms of power created around object exchange and production. Secondly, it considers archives as a form of gendered power, and spaces (e.g. noble households, courts, libraries) in which material objects were located, and their connection with the politics of memory, gift-giving and display. The newness of this approach lies both in viewing power and materiality through the lens of gender, and the application of diverse approaches bringing into dialogue historians, literary critics, material culture specialists, anthropologists, archaeologists (who bring an understanding of objects and theory), and curators, archivists and conservators. Furthermore, the network prompts an important process of recovery of a range of physical objects across Europe (eg jewels, books and other gifts) which will be considered alongside documents like letters, inventories and accounts. The link with the 'Women's Early Modern Letters Online' project facilitates integrated exploration of material and written texts, and hosting by the Bodleian ensures digital sustainability. Importantly, the network brings together international scholars working on different contexts, who specialise on various UK and non-UK records (Scandinavian, Dutch, French and German), and bring together different historiographies, historical traditions and palaeographical skills. Proceedings will be in English, but in different European settings, allowing access to work ordinarily only available in different languages.
The network plans three workshops (in Lund, Sweden; Leiden, The Netherlands; and Perth, Australia) and a conference in Plymouth. The first stage is a workshop 'Gender, Power and Theories of Materiality in Early Modern Europe' to investigate underpinning methodologies. The second stage will be an opening 'state-of-the-field' international conference ('Gender, Power and Materiality in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800'), which will be an open call for papers to allow for the possibility of expanding the network over a range of disciplines and geographical areas. The third stage will be a symposium on 'Gender and the Politics of Early Modern Archives/Spaces'; while the fourth stage will be a capstone workshop on 'Gender, Emotions and the Dynamics of Early Modern Gift-Exchange'. The network will produce a jointly-authored journal article, an edited collection, and a special edition of a journal on 'Archives and Spaces'. The network website will be developed at the outset of the project, and utilised over the two years and beyond as a mechanism of digital scholarly sociability, to publicise events and research, and host an online exhibition.

Planned Impact

We have identified a wide range of non-academic beneficiaries who will derive different kinds of impact from the research generated by the network. These include:
i) museums and archives in the UK, Sweden and The Netherlands. Each of the three European 'nodes' at Plymouth, Lund and Leiden has identified a series of local partner institutions as end-users for the research deriving from the network, with whom relationships are already established and which we would like to further develop. In the UK, this will include the Victoria and Albert Museum; in Sweden, Skarhults kulturminne, which hosts the Den Dolda Kvinnomakten ('The Hidden Power of Women') exhibition, and its owner Baroness Alexandra von Schwerin, and the National Archive (Riksarkivet), Stockholm; and in The Netherlands, The Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, the Museum Catharijne Convent Utrecht, and The Hague Historical Museum.
ii) curators, archivists and specialists working in the Heritage and Public History industries.
iii) visitors to museums, including the V&A, Skarhults Slott, the Museum Catharijne Convent Utrecht, and The Hague Historical Museum.
iv) local history groups and societies, including the Plymouth branch of the Historical Association, Devon History Society and Friends of Devon Archives.
v) educators (teachers and lecturers) and school children and undergraduate students.
vi) the Swedish government and Department of Education.

The ways in which these non-academic end-users will benefit from the impact of research produced by the network is wide-ranging and varied. Potential impacts include:
i) strengthening international relationships between museums, archives and academics in the UK, Sweden and The Netherlands.
ii) developing archival and museology practices as they relate to the ways in which collections are approached, curated, displayed and studied through sharing practices between a range of international scholars working in different academic disciplines (History, Literature and Art History), and curators, archivists and specialists working in the Heritage and Public History industries.
iii) enhancing the visitor experience through new methods of display, and so developing cultural and social benefits for visitors.
iv) providing expert knowledge contributing to the development of items (e.g. jewellery and postcards) for sale in museum shops, thus leading to financial benefits for the museums and for the regional economies.
v) engaging local history groups in the South West of the UK, and the general public in an aspect of their cultural heritage through various public engagement activities (lectures and public talks), thus contributing to their knowledge, skills and quality of life.
vi) enhancing schools' engagement with museum-based collections, via developing materials in the form of teaching packs repurposing research for use in the classroom, aligned with the National Curriculum.
vii) providing expert knowledge contributing to public policy debates in Sweden (in association with Skarhults kulturminne, and its owner Baroness Alexandra von Schwerin) relating to curriculum change in the teaching of History within Swedish classrooms in order to enhance the study of women in the past.
 
Description As a result of research over the past two years in collaboration with our non-HEI partners we have developed an interpretative methodology for understanding objects, exhibitions and the past through the lens of gender, power and materiality, as important power constellations that affected the design, form and function of objects. In our research we explored complex narratives about the gendered operation of early modern power that were and are produced through materiality in early modern Europe; in order to offer a new interpretive lens for studying gendered power from the perspective of materiality. In so doing, we brought together recent scholarship concerning both the gendered nature of politics, the political and power in the early modern world, in which gender is always one of several factors that informs its operation. Secondly, our research builds on analyses suggesting the significant political implications and import of early modern material culture. Research concerning early modern objects suggests that gendered power relations inform every mode of their existence and significance, from conceptualisation, component source and physical production, to consumption, display and exchange, and finally, destruction, preservation, conservation or memory from family archives to modern museological settings. Our research argues that gendered operations of power, invested in material objects such as are complex, multiple and ever-changing, enacted in sometimes subtle and obscure ways - often hidden from historiographical analysis - but that these are vital to elucidate for a richer and more meaningful understanding of the relational nature of gender, power and materiality.
In recent years, scholars from various disciplines have sought to understand the gendered structures of early modern politics in Europe. Much has been done to reconstruct the roles of women and men, to rethink categories and definitions of what constituted 'power', 'politics' and 'agency', integrating the personal and informal, with the public and formal, and analysing gender as a dynamic at the state, family, and wider social level. The last decade or so has also witnessed the 'material turn' in history, borrowing approaches from the vast fields of material culture, anthropology and archaeology, which lend a sophisticated theoretical understanding of the ways in which objects worked. Scholars have studied the relationship between power and materiality, and materiality and gender. Among early modern historians, material studies have looked at gendered patterns of production, consumption and taste, or households and related objects as sites of material meaning and display. Less well studied, however, is the degree to which relationships between power and materiality were themselves gendered; that is, informed by gender ideologies and practices, in the early modern period.
This turning away from author to object prompts various unanswered questions about material objects as expressions and operations of gendered power relations, as they are produced, consumed, owned, collected and archived. Interdisciplinary work on gifts and gift-giving has studied the exchange of material objects and texts as a way of understanding social and political relationships, but scholars have little examined the gendered dynamics of gift-exchange. Our aim in this article is to analyse the ways in which things or objects construct the gendered nature of power across varied stages of their existence from commission and construction through consumption and exchange to potential performances as display and memory. In so doing we explore, through gloves, a way of thinking about the gendered nature of power relationships constructed by and through objects, that might be applicable for analysing other things, such as shoes, rings, porcelain or books. As such, theoretically we offer a conceptual and methodological approach to objects that complements traditional 'object biographies', and is critical of such conceptualisations for several reasons. First, we eschew here the term 'afterlife' or 'lifecycle' since our argument is that these objects and their meanings or power do not evolve, develop, or have an 'after' life, all of which imply a linear sense of progression, a beginning and end to an object's existence; rather we understand objects as highly changeable in different interpretive contexts and constellations of gender and power. While 'biography' implies a birth, death and potential afterlife, we argue that objects and their components always exist and have meaning generated in different relational contexts.
Secondly, rather than embarking upon a 'thick description' of the biography of a single object, we utilise an approach that privileges a more prosopographical conceptualisation of the material that was used to manufacture (or shape) the early modern object. In other words, being a manufactured object is only one part of the material's shape and form throughout its material history. This choice relates to our understanding, as historians, that the narratives of power that these objects create and reflect extends beyond physical objects that exist today, but also in a range of documentary and visual materials throughout the existence of these objects that can shed light on the different forms and meanings of objects from the early modern period to the present. This contrasts to an approach to the physical object, for example in a modern museological context, which reconstructs these different stages of the object's life history from the physical features of the item. It is quite rare for objects to be passed down with a provenance. Often objects are catalogued with very little 'biographical' information, an 'anonymity' that makes it hard to write the 'biography of things' in this sense, except in extraordinary instances; objects when they reside in museums are sometimes de-historicized (or even historicized fictitiously), divorced from the historical contexts of their 'material existences', associated with human agents and specific places; and the contextual and historical meanings associated with their physicality (texture, colour and of course smell). There are many aspects of the objects' life that challenge attempts at reconstruction from what survives physically. The full sensory experience of an object in particular phases of its historical contexts can be extremely difficult to analyse. However, it is important we aim to grasp, as far as possible from the existing sources, the gendered sensory experience of the glove in time and context. Women and men's experiences of touch or smell and the meaning of different sensory appreciation hold immense potential as new avenues for gender analysis that have rarely been considered to date. Although the field and analysis of such dimensions remains at a preliminary stage, our research explores such aspects of gendered historical experience of materiality, as the sources allow.
Exploitation Route We are still in the process of finalising these findings, being only 18 months into a network grant.
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://blogs.plymouth.ac.uk/gpmeme/
 
Description As a result of this two-year AHRC-funded research network project, 'Gender, Power and Materiality in Early Modern Europe, 1400-1800', our research and impact-related actvities raised awareness of gender as an important interpretative category in museology. The network generated a valuable dialogue between the four university nodes (University of Plymouth, Lund University, Leiden University, and University of Western Australia) and curators and research department at the V&A museum, as well as practice professionals at Skarhult Castle, Sweden (represented by Baroness Alexandra von Schwerin), The Museum of London, The Worshipful Company of Glovers, Powderham Castle in Devon, Catherijne Convent Utrecht and Cultural Heritage Leiden. As a result of these dialogues we identified a series of follow-on activities that have potential for significant wider impact in terms of expanding our stakeholder engagement and knowledge exchange, which has generated a further follow-on project, for which we are currently seeking funding. During the network phase of the grant, we also developed a new relationship with the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Svante Norrhem (international CI) having been invited to sit on their gender reference group, and the network has been invited to be involved in an advisory capacity with them in the future. As a result of a series of workshops over the past two years in collaboration with our non-HEI partners we have developed an interpretative methodology for understanding objects, exhibitions and the past through the lens of gender, power and materiality, as important power constellations that affected the design, form and function of objects. A powerful outcome of the research network has been a raising of the awareness of gender (which encompasses women and men, femininities and masculinities, sexualities and identities) as an important interpretive category within the museum environment, and the significant role this can play in generating diverse narratives (as with race and LGBTQ pathways through exhibitions and collections) that have wider societal impact disseminated through curatorial practice, as well as educational and public programming in its broadest sense for schools as well as the general public. Studied from the perspective of gender our research will offer a thicker description of objects, which will enhance visitor experience, as a part of the museums' strategies to bring audiences back for revisits and also to help stimulate behavioural change relating to gender and diversity of experiences. It is intended that the follow-on project would further enhance the partnership with the V&A, and as part of our research we have identified a new major Swedish museum, the Vasa Museum, which is reorganising the ways in which they think of gender in relation to their collections and museology practices. Our research has also been instrumental in informing the future development of the exhibition on 'Women and Power' at Skarhults Slott, Sweden, and we have advised on issues relating to gender and sexuality as it might be represented in new exhibition spaces. As a result of one of our workshops, the Castle developed a series of videos that explored the castle's history from a gendered perspective, and we have been involved in workshops with school groups, the general public, policy makers and publishers.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description 24.4.2017: Svante Norrhem gave a talk and an introduction to "Gender and Power" for new guides at Skarhult´s castle and the exhibition "The hidden history of women." 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 24.4.2017: Svante Norrhem gave a talk and an introduction to "Gender and Power" for new guides at Skarhult´s castle and the exhibition "The hidden history of women."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description 23.8.2017: Svante Norrhem gave a public talk at Skarhult Castle on 'Gender and Power'. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 23.8.2017: Svante Norrhem gave a public talk at Skarhult Castle in Sweden, the titled of which was 'Gender and Power'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description 25-26.10.2017: Svante Norrhem was invited to give a talk at a half-day workshop for master students and PhD-students at Århus University at which the theme was "Gender and biography". 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 25-26.10.2017: Svante Norrhem was invited to give a talk at a half-day workshop for master students and PhD-students at Århus University at which the theme was "Gender and biography". Within my talk at talked about "Gender, Power and Materiality" and the importance of bringing in materiality for our understanding of women´s lives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description Filming for the BBC documentary on Versailles - presented by Lucy Worsley, 19 November 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Filming with Lucy Worsley for a new BBC documentary on Versailles, as a tie-in with the 10-part French TV drama series to be broadcast in 2016. The focus of my role was to explain the gendered political networks and intelligence system in and out of Louis XIV's Versailles.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Launched a new podcast series stemming from the research undertaken by the network, entitled 'Histories of the Unexpected' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of the project, I launched a new podcast series stemming from the research undertaken by the network, entitled 'Histories of the Unexpected' which I co-write and present with the BBC's Dr Sam Willis and which is hosted by Dan Snow's History Hit Network. This is a weekly podcast, and we have recorded almost 40 episodes on topics ranging from gloves and the letter to the pen, the study and blood. Within the first four months we had almost 300,000 downloads from an international audience, and engaged with members of the general public and other listeners through Twitter and other social media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL http://historyh.it/unexpected
 
Description On Wednesday 23 August 2017, Svante Norrhem had a meeting with "The Publishers of Southern Sweden" an organization for Publishers, and was on a panel discussing gender and history books. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On Wednesday 23 August 2017, Svante Norrhem had a meeting with "The Publishers of Southern Sweden" an organization for Publishers, and was on a panel discussing gender and history books.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2017
 
Description Public Lecture at Tiverton Church delivered by Professor James Daybell, 22 October 2015 on Gertrude Marchioness of Exeter - delivered to the Courtenay Society and members of the General Public 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This public lecture was delivered at Tiverton Church as an event as part of the annual meeting of the international Courtenay Society and Powderham Castle, Devon. It was attended by the Earl and Countess of Devon, and members of the Courtenay from the UK, North America and Australia, as well as the owners of Tiverton Castle.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Public Talk at Royal Albert Memorial Museum, delivered by Professor James Daybell, 26 November 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The talk was part of the following event attended by around 50 members of the general public and museum staff, and focussed on the materiality of early modern women's letters.

Historical Ladies who Lunch - Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery

When: 26 November 2015
Where: The Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Queen Street, Exeter EX4 3RX
Time: 11.00 am - 3.30 pm
Cost: £40 (£35)
Suitable for: Any age

Join Professors James Daybell (University of Plymouth) and Mark Stoyle (University of Southampton) to enjoy a fresh look at the lives of a selection of sixteenth and seventeenth-century women. Professor Daybell will provide a practical demonstration of how to read an Elizabethan woman's manuscript letter, demonstrating ways in which aspects such as handwriting, ink, layout, paper and seals communicate significant social meaning alongside textual and historical features.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.devonmuseums.net/Historical-Ladies-who-Lunch/Events/9
 
Description School Visit to Plymouth University from 40 sixth-form students from Teign Valley school, December 9, 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 40 pupils attended Plymouth University History department, where I lectured to them on the nature of the Tudor political regime, Henry VII and the political roles of women during the early modern period. Thus sparked a series of questions and discussion during and afterwards, and the school reported significant interest in these research areas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Skype meeting with the Head of Vasa Museum, Head of Research Department at the Vasa Museum, Stockholm 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 31.3.2017: Svante Norrhem had a skype meeting with the head of Vasa museum, head of research department at the Vasa museum, Stockholm, which led to a formal partnership with the Vasa to look at Gendered Interpretative Pathways in the museum and throughout its collections.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Svante Norrham delivered a talk on Sunday 21 May 2017 at Skarhult Castle: 'Varför är det viktigt att få in kvinnorna i historieböckerna?' (Why is it important to bring gender into text-books?) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Svante Norrham delivered a talk on Sunday 21 May 2017 at Skarhult Castle: 'Varför är det viktigt att få in kvinnorna i historieböckerna?' (Why is it important to bring gender into text-books?)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006,2017
 
Description Svante Norrhem had monthly work meetings with our partner Baroness Alexandra von Schwerin, the owner of Skarhults Castle outside of Lund. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Svante Norrhem had monthly work meetings with our partner Baroness Alexandra von Schwerin, the owner of Skarhults Castle outside of Lund. These meetings discussed the castle's exhibition and related issues and plans.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description Svante Norrhem was on a panel organized by the association for publishers in Southern Sweden (and co-organized by Alexandra von Schwerin, our partner) where we discussed how gender history can take a larger part in text books 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Svante Norrhem was on a panel organized by the association for publishers in Southern Sweden (and co-organized by Alexandra von Schwerin, our partner) where we discussed how gender history can take a larger part in text books.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk at the "Öresundsnätverket för könshistorisk forskning" (The Öresund network for gender research). Title of talk: "Tidigmodernt lärande: människor, objekt och kunskapsöverföring" (Learning in the early modern period: people, objects and knowledge transmission) It´s a network of scholars from Danish universities and South Sweden universities which meet twice every year - once in Copenhagen and once in Lund/Malmö. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 18.11.2016: Talk at the "Öresundsnätverket för könshistorisk forskning" (The Öresund network for gender research) by Svante Norrhem. Title of talk:

"Tidigmodernt lärande: människor, objekt och kunskapsöverföring" (Learning in the early modern period: people, objects and knowledge transmission)
It´s a network of scholars from Danish universities and South Sweden universities which meet twice every year - once in Copenhagen and once in Lund/Malmö.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2016
 
Description Wikipedia workshop at Malmö museum organized by our project partner Skarhult´s kulturminne. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 8.3.2017: Wikipedia workshop at Malmö museum organized by our project partner Skarhult´s kulturminne. At the workshop we wrote new wikipedia articles about women.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop at Skarhults Schlott Lund University in Sweden, Sunday 25 October 2015-Wednesday 28 October 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The first event of the AHRC network was held at Skarhults Slott, and Lund University in Sweden, Sunday 25 October 2015-Wednesday 28 October 2015, and focussed on 'Gender, Power and Theories of Materiality'. The four days brought together academic members of the network with key non-HEI partners from Skarhults kulturmine (Baroness Alexandra von Schwerin), the Victoria and Albert Museum, Swedish National Archives, and from museums in The Netherlands. Day one (Sunday 25 October) involved a meeting between the network steering committee to discuss the network management and final plans for the workshop, a meeting with V&A staff to discuss future collaborations, and a networking event in the evening; day two was based at Skarhults Slott and introduced the network steering committee and collaborators formally, discussed future collaborations, and also involved a tour of the castle's exhibition. The network is a formal collaborator with the castle's exhibition, and consulted over future developments. Day three was based at Lund university and involved theoretical discussions and a writing workshop with the intention of developing a new theoretical/methodological framework for studying gender, power and materiality, and working on a collaboratively written output.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015