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Conceptualising Men: Collective Identities and the 'Self' in the History of Masculinity

July 27, 2009
University of Exeter

United Kingdom

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Current understanding of the history of masculinity is restricted by two major factors: periodisation and conceptualisation, both of which further complicate one another. Phrases, such as 'manhood', 'manliness', 'masculinity' and 'masculine identity', have been utilised differently according to the period of study. Medieval and early modern scholars have been reluctant to adopt the term '>masculinity', seeing it as an anachronistic expression, which is alien to pre-industrial periods of history, whereas the term 'manliness' appears to hold very different connotations in post-1900 studies than those of earlier periods. The conceptual language adopted by those researching within the traditional parameters of periodisation has the potential to hinder otherwise necessary considerations of long-spanning chronologies in the history of masculinity. In order to achieve a fuller understanding of the concepts, theories, practices and experiences of men in the past, the history of masculinity would benefit from crossing the boundaries of periodisation. Moreover, the nuances of conceptual, terminological categorisation need to be scrutinised more carefully before being imposed on individual and groups of men in the past. This colloquium aims to promote interdisciplinary and cross-chronological discussion of these issues. In particular, it will explore the relationship between conceptual categories of 'manhood', 'manliness', 'masculinity' and 'masculine identity'. Furthermore, it will consider the extent to which men in the past engaged with culturally constructed collective identities or created their own sense of a masculine 'self'.

Early career and postgraduate historians of any time period, whose research engages with the history of masculinity, are invited to present their ideas.


Dr Henry French; Dr Jennifer Jordan


University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, Exeter, UK


Dr Henry French

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