Restoring Women To History



Start Date: 7pm (BST), Monday 2 October 2023


Course Details: Most people who ever lived left barely a trace of their existence, but with women the problem is compounded. Women have historically been less powerful and less literate than men, and this has affected their presence in historical archives. Ordinary women left behind few documents in their own hands and appear to us only fleetingly through the eyes of others. If we know of them at all, it’s generally because a handful of their words were written down by a man. So how can we access their lives? How can we reclaim them from historical oblivion? Can we restore them to history?

This course explores these questions through three detailed case studies. These suggest different ways to approach the study of the past but also offer the opportunity to explore the lives of ordinary, poor, marginalized, and enslaved women throughout history.

Delivery: The course will be delivered by a series of 4 pre-recorded video lectures, and separate live group Q&As with the course tutor via a video conferencing platform. Participants will also receive a reading list, course literature and activities. Links and details will be sent to participants a few days before the course begins. Lectures will be released at 7pm (BST) each  Monday and will be available to view for a month and  half.  The live Q&A will take place at 8pm (BST) each Monday of the course, beginning 2nd October. It will be recorded and made available to view afterwards.

Accessibility: All lectures will have closed captions. The live Q&As will have live captioning. If you have any additional access requirements, please get in touch via

Course Breakdown

Lecture 1 – How can we recover the lost lives of women? This introductory lecture explores power in the archives and thinks about possible methods to access the stories of ordinary women through a series of examples that range from ancient Rome through 16th-century Spain and Mexico up to 19th-century Jamaica and 20th-century New York.

Lecture 2 – Women, witchcraft, and fantasy: Our first detailed case study examines how women were seen in the early modern period, and what this has to do with women’s executions for witchcraft. We consider what we can learn of the experiences of women accused of being a witch, the fate of those who were tortured, and what confessions can tell us about their fantasies. We dwell on 17th-century England and Germany.

Lecture 3 – Finding the voices of 16th-century rape victims: Our second case study explores three women who were sexually assaulted in 16th-century France and the odds against them getting justice. Using testimonies found by Suzannah Lipscomb in the archives of the Protestant church of Languedoc, this lecture gives an opportunity to confront the raw primary sources and hear these women’s voices as directly as possible.

Lecture 4 – Violence in the archives: The experience of enslaved women: Our final case study considers how the intersection of gender and race has profoundly affected the state of our historical knowledge. We explore the problem of accessing the lives of millions of enslaved women who endured the Middle Passage and consider how different historians have addressed the violence that attends these women’s traces in the archives. We explore the stories of women in New England, Barbados, and the Atlantic in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Your Tutor: Professor Suzannah Lipscomb is an award-winning historian, author, and broadcaster. She is Professor Emerita at the University of Roehampton; Senior Member of Common Room at St Cross College, Oxford; and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Society of Antiquaries. She has written and edited seven books and presented numerous history documentary series on the BBC, ITV, Channel Five, Netflix etc. Her most recent series was The Royals: A History of Scandals for More 4.

She is the host of hugely successful Not Just the Tudors podcast from History Hit and a royal historian for NBC. She received a double First, MSt, and DPhil in History from Lincoln and Balliol Colleges, Oxford, and was formerly Research Curator at Hampton Court Palace.

If you have any queries about the course, please do not contact the tutors direct. Instead, contact where we will be happy to advise.