Events Diary

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Durham Early Modern Studies Conference: Authority, Gender and Social Relations

Durham Early Modern Studies Conference: Authority, Gender and Social Relations

23rd July 2018, 09:00 to 25th July 2018, 17:00, Durham University

Download the full call for papers

Confirmed keynote speakers:

Jean Howard, George Delacorte Professor in the Humanities (Columbia University)

Matthew Johnson, Professor of Archaeology (Northwestern University)

Nicola Whyte, Senior Lecturer in Landscape History (Exeter University)

The Durham Early Modern Studies Conference provides an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of the period 1450 to 1800. For the 2018 conference, we are focusing on the themes of authority, gender and social relations. These are key subjects for anyone working on the early modern period. Viewed from outside, early modern societies often presented themselves as patriarchal, authoritarian totalities. But everyday practice was very different: women often had far greater autonomy and agency than patriarchal structures allowed. Poorer people were used to asserting themselves as subjects, litigants, rebels and petitioners. Dramatic texts, often seeming to restate authoritarian social and political conventions, frequently carried messages that allowed audiences and readers to reinterpret their social worlds in surprising ways.

This conference seeks to draw together work on authority, gender and social relations in early modern studies. We conceive of these concepts in their broadest sense and take them to include (but not necessarily be restricted to) the following:

  • Gender and class: useful categories of analysis?
  • Patriarchy and the household
  • Power in the landscape
  • Resistance and rebellion
  • Clientage, subordination, reciprocity and affinities
  • Communities and neighbourhoods
  • Archaeologies of authority
  • Archaeologies of community and place
  • Gender, belief and the body
  • Elites and society
  • Architecture, art and power
  • Landscapes and social topographies
  • Literary and dramatic representations of authority and resistance
  • Occupation and social structure
  • Labour discipline
  • Slavery, serfdom and unfree labour
  • Ethnicity and national identity
  • Religious radicalisms
  • Belief and hierarchy
  • Dress, demeanour and authority
  • Experiences of inequality: clothing, housing, food and diet

The first day of the conference will be given over to papers by postgraduate students, organised by the Medieval and Early Modern Students Association (MEMSA). Interdisciplinary approaches are welcome. We are keen to deal with transnational histories and with the history of the New World and with European relations with the rest of the globe. We welcome proposals both for individual papers and for panels comprising three 20-minute papers. Send proposals for papers (300 words) or panels (3x300 words, with a rationale for the panel) by 12 January 2018

Replies to all submissions will be sent no later than early February 2018.

Further information:

Special Events

In addition to walking tours of Seventeenth-Century Durham, conference delegates will have the opportunity to attend a private view of the exhibition Scottish Soldiers at Durham University’s Palace Green Library, which will showcase recent research about the Seventeenth Century Scottish soldiers, who were imprisoned and died in Durham following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650.

An optional three-course conference dinner is planned in the spectacular Durham Castle, which forms part of Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Conference fee: £140 waged; £70 unwaged, to include daytime refreshments, exhibition view and wine reception; excludes conference dinner and other evening meals.

Day delegate fee: £56 waged; £28 unwaged, to include daytime refreshments; excludes conference dinner, other evening meals, wine reception and exhibition view.

We regret that we are unable to offer any bursaries for conference speakers.


Durham City has a range of private hotel and B&B accommodation and Newcastle is a major centre, which can be reached in just 15 minutes by train from central Durham.

Details of accommodation options in a Durham college will be made available in 2018; indicative costs for delegates choosing to stay in University accommodation are £45-85 per night.

Durham can be reached in under 3 hours from London by train and Newcastle airport is within easy striking distance of the City. Edinburgh, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester are other major UK cities with direct transport links to Durham.

Further details concerning travel and accommodation will be made available when conference booking opens in early February 2018.

Contact for more information about this event.

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