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Unit information: Modern Girls and New Women (Level I Lecture Response Unit) in 2017/18

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Unit name Modern Girls and New Women (Level I Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HIST20079
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Lewis
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


In the 1920s and 1930s, the 'Modern Girl' emerged as a global phenomenon, from Tokyo and Bombay to London and Cairo, as women all over the world campaigned for political rights and widened access to education. In this unit, we situate the emergence of the modern girl within a broader history of colonialism and international feminism. Why was the Modern Girl such a global phenomenon in the interwar era? Why was she seen as such a threat to 'masculine' discourses of nationalism? What made her so 'modern'? While we focus on the self-styled 'Modern Girl' and 'New Woman', we also look at the role of courtesans, suffragettes, factory girls, and prostitutes – versions of modern women – over a much longer time period. In this unit, students will develop research techniques in gender and global history and gain experience in dealing with a number of print and visual sources – paintings, cartoons, newspapers, memoirs, magazines, advertisements, and film. Important themes include: gender and modernity, nationalism, globalisation, urbanism, consumption, as well as popular and youth culture.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed: (1) a broad understanding of the ways in which conceptions of the ‘modern girl’ and ‘new woman’ developed in the early twentieth century; (2) the ability to analyse and generalise about the historical roots of the ‘modern girl’; (3) the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues and arguments; (4) the ability to derive benefit from, and contribute effectively to, large group discussion; (5) the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically, and form an individual viewpoint.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour interactive lecture per week.

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 3000 words (50%) and one unseen examination of two hours comprising 2 questions out of 8 (50%). Both elements will assess ILOs 1-3, and 5.

Reading and References

  • Alys Eve Weinbaum et al, The Modern Girl Around the World (2008)
  • Anne Walthall, Ed., Servants of the Dynasty: Palace Women in World History (2008)
  • Kumari Jayawardene, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World (1986)
  • Adrian Bingham, Gender, Modernity, and the Popular Press in Interwar Britain (2004)
  • Barbara Sato, The New Japanese Woman: Modernity, Media, and Women in Interwar Japan (2003)
  • Mina Roces and Louise Edwards, Women’s Movements in Asia (2010)