Resources for Gender in World History

Marlyn Miller's picture

Greetings everyone,

I'm currently designing a one-semester survey on gender in world history and am looking for supplemental films and works of fiction that feature histories of women or questions of gender, particularly in relation to early modern empires, industrialization, imperialism, slavery, and/or decolonization. Any other topics in the early modern/modern time period would be welcome as well. It would of course be ideal if these came from something other than a Euro-American perspective. I would be grateful for any suggestions.

Many thanks,

Marlyn Miller

_Pachinko_ is a fictional exploration of 20th century Korean history through a colonial/gendered/generational lens, though it's quite long. In the opposite direction, _Abina and the Important Men_ and _Persepolis_ are graphic novels that are fairly accessible for introductory-level courses, focusing on women's experiences in the transatlantic slave trade and the Iranian Revolution, respectively.

I hope this helps!

Two texts that I have had success in teaching are Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Not Either an Experimental Doll, edited by Shula Marks. This second title is a collection of correspondence between a young Xhosa girl, Lily Moya, and the English woman, Dr. Mabel Palmer, who paid for her to attend a British-style school. Marks wrote an article years later about how she introduced the book and how she would change her interpretation, which I'm nearly positive is entitled "Changing History, Changing Histories." I assigned this piece to students after they read the book, and had them think about the work of editing these letters, and what themes they would choose to highlight if they were the editor. It was a really successful assignment--students found the narrative of another student really interesting, and did some excellent work thinking about how framing sources changes their interpretation. Best of luck with your class!

Dear Marlyn,

The first thing that comes to mind are the Trung sisters in Vietnam,
however that might be too early for your class. But their story became a rallying cry against colonialism and remain important national figures today, so that might be worth exploring. I've also taught Burmese Days, by George Orwell, in my Indian Ocean World class to discuss the intersection of gender and race in Colonial Burma. As long as they read the whole book, and not just the first chapter, it facilitates very useful discussions.

Carey McCormack

Hi Marilyn,
Perhaps these can help.
John Maunu
"Forum: Gender and Empire," World History Connected, Vol. 15, no. 3, October 2018. Guest Editor, Tracey Rizzo.
Forum: Gender and World History, World History Connected, Vol. 4, no. 3, June 2007. Linda Black and Merry Weisner-
Hanks, guest editors for Forum.
Women and World History, University of California, Berkeley, ORIAS, 2016 Summer Institute for Community College
Teachers. Resources, links, embedded videos on global gender history.

From Brazil consider Xica (1976), and (while not focused on gender but with very strong female characters) Quilombo (1984). Both look at the early modern world and have questions related to the themes you are interested in. From Mexico, I, The Worst of All (1990) about Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz. A warning, though, my students have always found it really slow. Also Mexico: The Other Conquest (2000). Some questions of gender and religion and very much issues of imperialism.

While not fiction, it certainly is a short and exciting read: The Lieutenant Nun - the autobiography of a transgender Basque woman (Catalina de Erauso) in the colonial world and a true story. Some fictionalized movies were made about the book, however.