European Women in Conflict from the Early Modern Period to the Present
Brian D. Bunk


The purpose of this course is to explore the participation and depiction of women in conflict from the early modern period to the present. Discussions of women and war usually focus on the traditional roles of women as victims or mothers, but this course will study the often neglected role women play in actual combat. Throughout the course we will expand the traditional definition of conflict to include war, revolution, terrorism and other types of confrontations such as riots and strikes. We will explore the circumstances that propelled women into taking an active role in violent conflict as participants, common soldiers and commanders.

This unconventional approach allows us to analyze the relationships between fighting women and socially constructed notions of femininity, masculinity and sexuality. Exploring how these women challenged and/or conformed to existing gender roles will occupy a primary place. The readings emphasize primary source accounts in order to study the experiences of women in their own words. These accounts adds to our understanding of military history by revealing and uncovering aspects of military life that male soldiers take for granted. Our exploration of forms of conflict and protest that occur outside established civic systems enriches our understanding of how social movements and those generally not represented in positions of power can effect political change. Finally, the course will look at mythological representations of warrior women in addition to the actual participation of women in conflict.



De Pauw, Linda Grant. Battle Cries and Lullabies: Women in War from Prehistory to the Present. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.


De Erauso, Catalina. The Lieutenant Nun, [1626] 1996.

Durova, N.A. The Cavalry Maiden: Journals of a Russian Officer in the Napoleonic Wars, [1836] 1988.

Smirnova-Medvedeva, Zoya. On the Road to Stalingrad: Memoirs of a Woman Machine Gunner, 1997.

Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust: The Voices of Eyewitnesses, 1983.

Week 1:
Introduction: Women in European Society
Studying Women: An Introduction to Methodology
Gender, Masculinity and Sexuality

Week 2:
Military history and Women's history
Amazons and Goddesses: Ancient women warriors
Crusading Women and Medieval Warrior Queens

Week 3:
Militant Mysticism: Joan of Arc and Teresa of Avila
Outsider Women: Prostitutes and Sexual Rebels
The Tradition of Female Transvestitism

Week 4:
The Lieutenant Nun
"Manly Women": Cultural Depictions of Warrior Women
Women in the French Revolution

Week 5:
Marianne and Republican Heroines
Legacy of the Revolution: Agitation and Change in 19th century France
The Napoleaonic Wars

Week 6:
The Cavalry Maiden
Agustina of Aragon and the Spanish War of Independence
Murderesses and Mystics: European images of Spanish women

Week 7:
Queenship and Command: Victoria and Isabel
Women and Empire
Female Privateers and Pirates

Week 8:
Riots, Protests and Strikes
Fighting for "Justice"
Midterm Exam

Week 9:
Nationalism and Sexuality
Fighting for the New Nation: Germany and Italy
Women and the Fight for Irish Independence

Week 10:
Militant Feminism: Democracy and Suffrage
Revolutionary Women: Marxism and Anarchism
Rosa Luxemberg and the Spartacists

Week 11:
Women in the Great War: The Battalion of Death
Alexandra Kollontai and The Russian Revolution
Aida Lafuente and Revolutionary Memory

Week 12:
Milicianas and the Spanish Civil war
Women for and against Fascism
World War II and Social Change

Week 13:
Soviet Women Warriors: The Night Witches and others
Resisting the Holocaust
Irregular Combat: Women in the Italian and French Resistance

Week 14:
The Greek Resistance and Civil War
The Legacy of World War II in the Balkans
1960s: Feminism and Revolution

Week 15:
The New Face of Terrorism
Yugoslavia and the Bosnian War
Women and Conflict in the 21st Century