Witches, Workers, & Wives

Women working

  • Upper division history seminar
  • 40-student max enrollment
  • 1-day per week seminar
  • WWW Syllabus Spring 2017
  • Description: Witches, Workers, and Wives uses the period between 1500 and 1800 in Europe and the Atlantic World to offer students an introduction to the history of women, gender, sexuality, and family as well as familiarity with the major historical processes of the early modern period.  In this course, we will analyze the complex social, religious, political, and cultural factors that shaped experiences of gender and families on both sides of the Atlantic.  These experiences in turn created attitudes, ideas, and stereotypes about gender, sexuality, and power – including how a witch became a quintessential early modern trope.  The early modern centuries were years of tremendous change in many ways: religious reform; state-building; colonial expansion; the rise of capitalism; and revolutionary movements. We will examine how women’s experiences of these historical patterns compared to men’s – whether as workers, wives, mothers, consumers, criminals, political subjects and political actors, peasants and nobles, spouses and parents, and even witches.  As an upper division seminar, the course’s learning objectives are focused on developing students’ critical thinking and analytical skills.  Reading and analyzing a variety of primary and secondary sources, students will become knowledgeable with gender and feminist theory.  Students will further develop their discussion skills with the presentation of weekly discussion questions and in-class debate.  In addition, students writing is refined through the creation of weekly reading grids on secondary sources, asking students to assess historians’ arguments and bias.  Finally, students’ participation in the Witchcraft group projects requires students to work collaboratively with their peers to analyze a particular witchcraft case from the seventeenth century.  As part of this project, students will also build their digital literacy skills through the creation of a class “Spellbinding Digital Timeline” that will chart the progress of witchcraft trials over the course of the seventeenth century in Europe and America.
  • Julie Hardwick at University of Texas at Austin (my doctoral advisor) came up with this class and she has graciously allowed me to use the name and teach my own version of her course.



Historical and Humanistic Knowledge

  • Identify key events and historical players in early modern period in Europe & the Atlantic
  • Understand historical change and continuity
  • Acknowledge gender as a historical lens
  • Develop familiarity with gender and feminist theory

Historical and Humanistic Thinking

  • Conceptualize how gender is a socially constructed concept particular to a place and time
  • Articulate how sexuality is distinct from gender yet related to it

Historical and Humanistic Skills

  • Articulate well-written responses to historical prompts using appropriate evidence
  • Assess the credibility, strengths, and weaknesses of primary and secondary sources
  • Develop advanced historical questions and debates using primary and secondary sources
  • Conduct research collaboratively within groups
  • Hone digital literacy skills


Class will be primarily be a discussion.  We will read and analyze primary and secondary sources in preparation for class and in class.  Considerable time is spent developing students’ writing and analytical skills. Additional instructions on assignments will be distributed to students in class and via Canvas. The following is an overview.

  • 20% Participation, Preparation, and Discussion Question(s)
    • Preparation and Discussion Questions: Students are expected to attend all class meetings, having read that day’s reading assignment. You will post one discussion question based on the week’s primary and secondary source readings on Canvas by midnight the night before class starts for every class session. This question should not be a simple yes/no or fact-based question. Instead, it should foster high level thinking and analysis. In other words, we should be able to talk about it for at least a few minutes.  No question should be repeated, so students must read the discussion entries of their classmates to ensure their question is original and will foster additional discussion.
    • Participation and Attendance: This class is an upper-division seminar class. A seminar is a class where students are active participants in their learning. In each session, students share their thoughts and analysis with each other and the professor. Aim for at least one contribution to our class discussions per day.  Coming to every class but being completely silent will not earn you full credit.  If you notice you’re having difficulty speaking up in class, please see me during office hours. Keep in mind that since this is 20% of your grade, participation plays a big role in your final course grade.  Be present, active, respectful, and engaged.  More than 2 absences will result in a final grade of F.
  • 25% Reading Grids (8)- Students will complete eight (8) reading grids on secondary source readings (meaning articles written by historians). The grids are posted on Canvas. All assigned secondary sources require a reading grid.  You may resubmit one grid to replace your lowest score. Grids must be submitted via Canvas by 4:00PM the day for which the reading is assigned.  No late grids. Grids are not for primary sources.
  • 30% A Spellbinding Timeline! Group Project (Digital Assignment) – Students will build their digital literacy and analytical skills through the creation of an interactive, digital timeline and database on early modern European and American witchcraft trials.  In small groups, students will be responsible for plotting the progression of their case (or set of cases) on the timeline; making connections to the larger historical and gendered trends; building an accessible database of their case(s) that they used to help analyze their sources; and report their findings.  Groups will present their projects to the class in oral presentations and final reports will be available online as part of the timeline and database. More detailed instructions to follow.
  • 25% Final Exam (Take Home)

All assignments, including exams, will be submitted electronically.