Defining Gender

Discover five centuries of primary sources providing a gendered perspective on conduct, domesticity, the family, consumption, education and the body.

Defining Gender provides access to a vast body of original British source material to enrich the teaching and research experience of those studying history, literature, sociology and education from a gendered perspective.

Students and scholars are provided the opportunity to research the ideals of social conduct, power distribution within the family, consumption and leisure, education of men and women and gendered perceptions of the body to analyse and challenge the changing views and ideas surrounding traditional gender roles.

By making available a range of rare printed and important and manuscript texts on many aspects of gender, sexuality and culture, the Defining Gender collection is an exciting and, for many, indispensable resource for undergraduate and advanced research into British culture and society.
Professor Christopher E. Forth, University of Kansas

Key Data

Period Covered

  • Mid- 15th to early 20th Century


  • Material for the study and analysis of gender, leisure and consumer culture; one of the most vibrant areas of social, cultural and intellectual research, transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries.
  • The broad range of thematically organised documents provides an excellent opportunity for comparative study and research.
  • Manuscripts, printed works and illustrations combine to address the key issues from both masculine and feminine perspectives. They are indexed to provide ready accessibility for students across all five centuries.

Source Archives

  • Bedfordshire & Luton Archives and Records Service
  • Birmingham Central Library
  • Brynmor Jones Library, University of Hull
  • Clark Library, Los Angeles
  • Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
  • Leeds University Library
  • Marlborough College, Wiltshire
  • Sheffield Archives & Local Studies
  • Somerville College Archive, University of Oxford
  • St Hilda’s College Archive, University of Oxford
  • The Bodleian Library, Oxford
  • The British Library, London
  • The London Library
  • The National Archives
  • University of Birmingham Libraries
  • Wellcome Library

Material Types

  • Ephemera
  • Pamphlets
  • Commonplace books
  • Diaries
  • Periodicals
  • Letters
  • Ledgers
  • Manuscript journals
  • Poetry
  • Receipt books
  • Conduct and advice literature

Editorial Board

  • Martyn Bennett, Nottingham Trent University
  • Rosemary Betterton, Lancaster University
  • Jeremy Black, University of Exeter
  • Toni Bowers, University of Pennsylvania
  • Elizabeth Harvey, University of Toronto
  • Vivien Jones, University of Leeds
  • Christopher Kent, University of Saskatchewan
  • Jane Long, University of Western Australia
  • Cathy McClive, Durham University
  • Sara Mendelson, McMaster University
  • Lisa O’Connell, Johns Hopkins University
  • Jeanne Peterson, Indiana University
  • Erika Rappaport, University of California at Santa Barbara
  • Ainslie Robinson, University of Western Australia
  • David Turner, University of Wales Swansea
  • Claire Walsh, The Open University
  • Sarah Winter, University of Connecticut, Storrs


  • Conduct and Politeness
  • Domesticity and the Family
  • Consumption and Leisure
  • Education and Sensibility
  • The Body
  • Religion and Morality

Key Features

  • Five centuries of (British) advice literature organised into five broad sections.
  • A wide range of original primary sources including ephemera, pamphlets, commonplace books, diaries, periodicals, letters, ledgers, manuscript journals, poetry, receipt books and conduct and advice literature.
  • Interactive chronology contextualising the documents.
  • Essays by leading scholars from Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA.