Do Women Need the Renaissance?



Joan Kelly's path-breaking article, ‘Did Women have a Renaissance?’, first published in 1977, led historians of women in many fields to question the applicability of chronological categories derived from male experience. Thirty years later, the questioning continues, augmented by doubts about whether all systems of periodisation over-simplify the diversity of gender. This paper examines what might be lost if feminist historians, in their sensitivity to difference, refuse to apply structures of periodisation. It looks at challenges to both ‘Renaissance’ and ‘early modern’ as conceptual categories and suggests ways in which gender is and must remain central to understandings of these eras.