Women and Power in Renaissance Italy HIST5132

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

Recent scholarship continues to add nuance to our understanding of the role of Italian Renaissance women, illuminating famous/notorious figures such as Isabella d'Este and Lucrezia Borgia and revealing women's place as stateswomen; as patrons, writers, performers, and artists; as religious women; as workers and property owners; and as daughters, wives, mistresses, mothers, and widows. This course offers advanced study of the agency of such women, examining their opportunities to exercise independence and control, and investigating their access to power in Renaissance Italy.


One two-hour seminar per week for ten weeks.

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College level.

Excluded Courses





One essay of 3,500 words (70%); one 15-minute presentation (20%) (content equivalent to 1500-word essay); seminar participation (10%).

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 


Seminar Participation

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ analyse key themes relating to women and their access to power in Renaissance Italy, with awareness of variation across time and geographical location.

■ develop understanding of the wider environment of Renaissance Italy through this study.

■ engage critically with relevant historiographical debates.

■ consider relevant issues of women's agency and access to power across history.

■ question a range of methodological approaches and the opportunities and challenges presented by the use of different types of source material, for instance asking whether the primary sources employed are a valuable means of accessing women's actions or words.

■ develop advanced skills in independent research and in communication (oral and written).

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ identify themes and issues surrounding women's access to, and exercise of, power at the Italian Renaissance court.

■ engage in a critical manner with secondary literature and make effective use of well-selected secondary sources.

■ evaluate different methodological approaches and apply advanced analysis of relevant primary sources.

■ independently identify and pursue research topics in this area, including showing bibliographical research skills in finding relevant further reading.

■ arrive at independent, well-argued, well-documented and appropriately-referenced conclusions in coursework.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.