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The Bedford Centre for the History of Women

The Bedford Centre promotes research into the history of women and gender and public histories of women.


OBedcollpicur key aims:

- promoting research in the history of women and gender - including masculinity and the ways gender identities intersect with other class, racial, religious and sexual identities

- creating networks of scholars working in these fields in the UK and internationally

- fostering teaching in the history of women and gender for undergraduates and taught and research postgraduate students

- inspiring discussions about women in the past that relate to current debates and public history

- forging links between historians of women and gender and feminists outside the academy

- engaging with wider publics through the media, heritage organisations, online communities and schools


Origins of the Bedford Centre

The Centre builds on the long standing contribution of Bedford New College, the first college of higher education for women, founded in 1849, which joined with Royal Holloway in 1986, to women’s higher education and intellectual lives. Located in the South Tower of Royal Holloway’s iconic Victorian Founders Building, the Centre was founded in 1999 by Professors Lyndal Roper and Amanda Vickery. The Centre pioneered the field when the study of the history of gender first came to be a major part of women's history, and gender scholars were establishing the primacy of the subject for the discipline as a whole. The Centre is linked to the Royal Holloway Archives and Special Collections, which contain substantial collections relating to the history of Royal Holloway and Bedford New College. 

Our Research

The current directors of the Centre are Dr. Jane Hamlett, Dr Stella Moss and Dr. Nicola Phillips. The History Department at Royal Holloway includes a number of leading researchers who work on the history of women and gender and are affiliated to the Centre, including Professor Sarah Ansari, Professor Sandra Cavallo, Dr Patrick Doyle, Dr Dawn-Marie Gibson, Dr Alex Windscheffel and Dr Anna Whitelock. Our research interests include Tudor Queens, eighteenth-century women in business and engaging with the law, women and the Nation of Islam, female activists in twentieth-century Pakistan, nineteenth-century men's dealings with bankruptcy, masculine and feminine objects in Victorian drawing rooms and alcohol and gendered drinking cultures in twentieth-century Britain.


FReetalorging Networks and Promoting Scholarship

A fundamental part of our mission is the promotion of links between scholars of women and gender, and collaborations with overseas institutions. The Centre also acts as an important forum for the dissemination of research. We have previously co-organised events with the Society for the History of Women in the Americas and the Women's History Network.There is an annual lecture, and the Centre has hosted international conferences that have shaped the field, including 'Earning and Learning' (the eleventh annual Women's History Network Conference) in 2002, 'New Approaches to Victorian Women' in 2006 and 'Women as Wives and Workers: Marking Fifty Years of the Feminine Mystique' in 2013.


Creating Public Histories of Women and the Bedford Centre Blog

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Click on the image above to view out the Bedford Centre's Blog.

Promoting women’s history beyond the academy is an important part of our work. Our blog promotes public understandings of women's and gender history, engages with media representations and debates about women in the past and we use social media to engage with individuals, online communities and institutions with interests in this area. We support women's history in a range of public history institutions including museums, galleries, archives and heritage sites and we also collaborate with public history professionals. We are keen to receive posts about the practice, opportunities and challenges of representing women’s history and engaging wider audiences outside the academy.  We are also keen to promote women’s history events and community projects. We welcome contributions from overseas and are actively seeking overseas editors to join the board.  Please email n.j.phillips@rhul.ac.uk with any suggestions or to express an interest. Our historians are often interviewed in the media and our historic Founders Building is used as a location for film and television.

We run a programme of schools outreach which includes introducing women's and gender history to pupils and students at different ages and Key Stages. In recent years this has included, for example, ‘masterclass’ sessions on women’s suffrage for local GSCE pupils, and A-Level lectures and classes on women and the Great War. We also work with schoolteachers to develop classroom resources (including primary source material) thereby helping to consolidate learning centred in women’s and gender history. This programme is led by Stella Moss, who is also Schools Liaison Officer for the Department of History. Please email stella.moss@rhul.ac.uk for further information.  


Studying at the Bedford Centre

The Bedford Centre brings together students and established scholars working in the field in a supportive environment. Our research on the history of women and gender directly informs our specialist teaching. The history of women and gender is a core part of our undergraduate teaching as well as the subject of special courses. These include:

HS2137: Tudor Queenship: Mary I and Elizabeth I, 1553-1603 

HS2234: Modern Girls: Women in Britain, c.1914-1990

HS2263: Gender and Society in the Non-Western World 

HS2313: "Dragon Ladies"? Society, Politics and Gender in Modern China 

HS2322: Women and the Politics of Gender in Modern Muslim Societies

HS2326: Sex, Society and Identity in Britain, c. 1660-1815

 We offer pathways in the study of gender history on our Modern History MA, and we have a large number of PhD students working in the field. MA options featuring Women and Gender include:

HS5322 The Material Culture of Homelife: European Households 1400 - 1850

HS5209 Women and the Crusades

HS5645 Public Decency and Private Morals: Twentieth-century British History


For enquiries, please contact Zoe Thomas who is Coordinator for the Bedford Centre.

Email: Zoe.Thomas.2012@live.rhul.ac.uk

Follow us on Twitter @RHBedfordCentre



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