Skip to main content

The Bedford Centre for the History of Women and Gender

The Bedford Centre for the History of Women and Gender

Promoting research into the history of women and gender and public histories of women.

Our 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.
  • Publishing our research to wider audiences via the Bedford Centre Blog.

Origins of the Bedford Centre

Founders Statue

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.

In 2016, we launched our Bedford Centre Blog in order to widen historical debates, engage with the public and promote our research. The latest events and conferences for the Centre can be found here.

Our research

The current directors of the Centre are Professor 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.

Forging networks and promoting scholarship

Reetal

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. We hold an annual lecture, and the centre has hosted international conferences that have shaped the field in recent years.

Creating public histories of women and the Bedford Centre Blog

New Picture

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@royalholloway.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@royalholloway.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

These lectures can be heard via the Backdoor Broadcasting Company

2017 lecture: Karen Harvey – Mary Toft’s Monstrous Births of 1726: Then and Now

2016 lecture: Yasmin Khan – Women and War in the British Empire

2015 lecture: Emily West – The dual exploitation of enslaved women in America, c.1815-1865

2014 lecture: Claire Langhamer – The English in Love

2013 lecture: Lucy Delap – Maids, au pairs and treasures

Jane Hamlett is a Co-Director of the Bedford Centre for the History of Women. Her research interests lie in society and culture in modern Britain, women and gender, the family, intimacy and material and visual culture.  In particular she is interested in the relationship between ideas of gender and material culture -- that is how men and women behave, how they see themselves, and how this is expressed in the material world around them. Her first book Material Relations: Middle-Class Families and Domestic Interiors in England, 1850-1910 (Manchester, 2010) explored the middle-class home, while her second monograph At Home in the Institution: Material Life in Asylums, Lodging Houses and Schools in Victorian and Edwardian England (Palgrave, 2014) looks at the institutional material world. She has co-edited a number of volumes and special issues including 'New Approaches to Victorian Women', 'Women as Wives & Workers: Marking Fifty Years of The Feminine Mystique', and Gender and Material Culture in Britain since 1600. She has also co-curated exhibitions including 'Choosing the Chintz: Men, Women and Furnishing the Home, 1850 to the Present' at the Geffrye Museum of the Home in Hoxton. She often contributes to the media and has acted as a commentator for a range of BBC television programmes.

Stella Moss is a Co-Director of the Bedford Centre for the History of Women. A historian of modern Britain, her research interests focus on popular culture and consumption in the twentieth century, with particular interests in drinking cultures and gender. Stella is a lead organiser of the international research group the Drinking Studies Network, where particular interests include the promotion of gender-related studies across a range of disciplines. To date, her publications have considered themes including women’s drinking in the Great War, music and emotional expression within the interwar public house, and masculinity and material culture in the 1930s pub. Stella convenes the undergraduate course ‘Modern Girls: Women in Britain, c.1914-90’, and an MA course on twentieth-century Britain. Stella is also Schools Liaison Officer for the Department of History. She has also acted as historical consultant on gender history to a range of institutions and organisations, as well as contributing to numerous BBC radio programmes.

Nicola Phillips is a Co-Director of the Bedford Centre for the History of Women and editor of the Bedford Centre Blog. Her first book was on Women in Business, 1700 to 1850 (Boydell, 2006) and her research focuses on gender, work, family conflict, and criminal and civil law, 1660-1830. Since finishing The Profligate Son: Or, A True Story of Family Conflict, Fashionable Vice and Financial Ruin in Regency England (Oxford University Press, 2013) she has been researching women and legal agency, focusing on a case study of Lady Theodosia Ivie’s numerous and frequently notorious C17th legal cases.  She has also just finished co-editing a book on Women in Magazinesfor Routledge. She is currently working on a collaborative project with the National Archives and Hull University to build a research network on Early Modern Courts.  Nicola teaches undergraduate courses on ‘Sex, Society and Identity, 1660-1800’ and ‘The Georgians: Society Culture and Crime’ as well as an MA course on Public History. She is also a Co-Director of Royal Holloway's MA in Public History, Chair of the Historical Association's Public History Committee, and a convener of the Institute of Historical Research Public History Seminar. She has acted as a historical consultant for various institutions and contributed to radio and television programmes on gender history.'

Adam McKie is co-ordinator for the Bedford Centre and a postgraduate research student in the department.

Professor Sarah Ansari, expert in the history of South Asia in the twentieth century and women's lives in India and Pakistan.

Professor Sandra Cavallo, works on the social and cultural history of early modern Italy, focusing in particular on the 16th and 17th centuries. Her research interests lie at the crossroad between the history of medicine and the body and the history of gender and the family.

Professor Kate Cooper, is an expert on the world of the Mediterranean in the Roman period, with a special interest in daily life, religion, and the family, and the inter-connected problems of martyrdom, resistance movements, and religious violence.

Dr Dawn-Marie Gibson, Lecturer in Twentieth-Century American History, is working on a co-authored book titled, ‘Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Orthodox Islam’ which is due to be published by New York University Press in late 2013. She co-convenes the Gender and History in the Americas Seminar Series at the Institute of Historical Research.

Professor Jane Hamlett, Reader in Modern British History, has worked on the history of Royal Holloway College and Holloway Sanatorium and has published on student rooms belonging to female Holloway students in the late nineteenth century.

Dr Victoria Leonard, Postdoctoral Research Associate in late ancient history, works as part of the ERC-funded project ‘Connected Clerics. Building a Universal Church in the Late Antique West (380-604 CE)’, at RHUL and the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities (ACDH-ÖAW), Austrian Academy of Sciences (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften). She is a founding member and steering committee member for the Women's Classical Committee (UK).

Dr Emily Manktelow, is Senior Lecturer in Global and Colonial History. Her research explores the social, cultural and familial history of the British Empire in the nineteenth century, as well as colonial and postcolonial history. She is a founding member of the Christian Mission in Global History seminar at the Institute of Historical Research and her most recent book presents a microhistorical investigation of sexual abuse in the South Seas Mission of the London Missionary Society: Gender, Power and Sexual Abuse in the Pacific: Rev Simpson’s ‘Improper Liberties’ .

Dr Stella Moss, Lecturer is currently working on a monograph, based on her doctoral thesis, about women’s drinking in the English public house, 1914-39.

Dr Anna Whitelock, Reader in Early Modern History, is an expert on Tudor Queenship and has published extensively on Mary Tudor. Her new book, on Elizabeth, will be out in 2013.

Dr Alex Windscheffel, Senior Lecturer, is working on bankruptcy in Victorian Britain, including the challenge this posed to contemporary ideals of masculinity.

Explore Royal Holloway

Get help paying for your studies at Royal Holloway through a range of scholarships and bursaries.

There are lots of exciting ways to get involved at Royal Holloway. Discover new interests and enjoy existing ones

Heading to university is exciting. Finding the right place to live will get you off to a good start

Whether you need support with your health or practical advice on budgeting or finding part-time work, we can help

Discover more about our 21 departments and schools

Find out why Royal Holloway is in the top 25% of UK universities for research rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’

They say the two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why

Discover world-class research at Royal Holloway

Discover more about who we are today, and our vision for the future

Royal Holloway began as two pioneering colleges for the education of women in the 19th century, and their spirit lives on today

We’ve played a role in thousands of careers, some of them particularly remarkable

Find about our decision-making processes and the people who lead and manage Royal Holloway today