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European Women’s. Letter-writing from the 11th to the 20th Centuries

Clare Monagle, Carolyn James, David Garrioch, Barbara Caine

MONAGLE Clare, JAMES Carolyn, GARRIOCH David, CAINE Barbara, European Women’s. Letter-writing from the 11th to the 20th Centuries, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2023.

ISBN : 9789048556427.

This book reveals the importance of personal letters in the history of European women between the year 1000 and the advent of the telephone. It explores the changing ways that women used correspondence for self-expression and political mobilization over this period, enabling them to navigate the myriad gendered restrictions that limited women’s engagement in the world. Whether written from the medieval cloister, or the renaissance court, or the artisan’s workshop, or the drawing room, letters crossed geographical and social distance and were mobile in ways that women themselves could not always be. Women wrote to govern, to argue, to plead, and to demand. They also wrote to express love and intimacy, and in so doing, to explain and to understand themselves. This book argues that the personal letter was a crucial place for European women’s self-fashioning, and that exploring the history of their letters offers a profound insight into their subjectivity and agency over time.

Table of Contents

1 Authority and the Self: the Letters of Medieval Women
2 The Rise of Vernacular Letter-writing
3 The Triumph of the Familiar Letter
4 Intimate Letters


Clare Monagle
Clare Monagle is Professor of History in the Department of History and Archaeology at Macquarie University. Her books include Orthodoxy and Controversy in Twelfth-Century Religious Discourse for Brepols in 2013, and Scholastic Affect in 2020, for Cambridge University Press Elements series.

Carolyn James
Carolyn James is Cassamarca Professor of History at Monash University. Her latest monograph, A Renaissance Marriage: The Political and Personal Alliance of Isabella d’Este and Francesco Gonzaga 1490-1519, was published by Oxford University Press in 2020.

David Garrioch
David Garrioch is Emeritus Professor at Monash University and author of The Making of Revolutionary Paris (University of California Press, 2002). He recently edited The Republic of Skill. Artisan Mobility, Innovation, and the Circulation of Knowledge in Premodern Europe(Brill, 2022).

Barbara Caine
Barbara Caine is Professor Emerita at the University of Sydney. Her works include Bombay to Bloomsbury: A Biography of the Strachey Family (OUP, 2005), and Biography and History (Palgrave, 2010) and Women and the Autobiographical Impulse: a History (Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2023)