Women and Power in Renaissance Italy (DL) HIST5183

  • 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: No
  • Taught Wholly by Distance Learning: 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%).

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.