New Histories of Women’s Lives Methodology, Theory, and Practice
Workshop on 10 March 2023
Venue: Sala degli Stemmi – Villa Salviati, Florence, Italy, and via Zoom
This workshop gathers early-career scholars working broadly on the topic of women’s lives.
The workshop features panels on ‘Non-Conforming Selves and Otherness: Early Modern and Modern Approaches to Women’s Lives’ and ‘Contemporary Encounters: Sources, Methods, Practices’. The workshop will finish with a keynote lecture by Francisca de Haan.
Since the 1980s, women historians have published a copious body of literature discussing women and their relationship to the past, present, and future. Women’s history, it has been written, is based on a constant questioning – of the understanding of the position of women, of the traditional canon and historiography, and of social norms and constructions. Marilyn J. Boxer argued along these lines, stating that: when women ask questions, everything looks different, including the past , and we could add – especially the past. To this we add another question: Who are those we ask questions about? What do we know about their lives? How do we examine their histories? The answer lies in the sources: biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, testimonies, letters, diaries.
While marginalised by male-dominated fields of history, ego documents have been celebrated by historians of social history, women’s history, labour history, Black history, and others, as a tool to recover the lost lives of those hidden in the traditional sources. This body of sources allowed historians to shift their lens from macro to micro perspective, examining individual actors and their influence on social, cultural, economic, and political relations. Moreover, the value of these sources lies not in the factual information, but in the possibility, they open to investigate how actors understood their lives and surroundings, what they felt, and how they negotiated their position in a given society.
Our workshop gathers early-career scholars working broadly on the topic of women’s lives. The questions we seek to discuss are the following: What are the methodological problems and challenges in the search for women’s experiences in existing historiography? How does the use of biography/life writing/ego documents by historians transform the genre itself? These are only some of the few questions our workshop aims to explore.
Please register in order to get a seat or to receive the ZOOM link.