Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Murray, Jacqueline,


History, European.




Although there has been a great deal of research done on the English Renaissance Controversy about women, it has been dominated by literary critics. Whereas some fine scholarship has been contributed, there are literary critics and historians who argue that the texts involved in the controversy are unconnected to women's status during this particular period. There are others, however, who believe that this controversy emerged out of the particular social and political ferment of the times. This thesis redresses these views through careful analyses of the primary sources themselves and by placing them in a historical context. Perhaps the central components of this English querelle des femmes were Joseph Swetnam's The Araignment of Lewde, idle, froward and unconstant women and the responses it received. The Araignment denounced women as immoral, and yet a necessary evil. The difficulty in addressing Swetnam's work is its historical accuracy. As literary critics have argued, the Swetnam controversy could be merely a literary game, part of traditional education in which the student learns to argue both sides of the debate. The question addressed in this thesis is whether or not historians can rely upon literature as a source for women's history. A quick read of the works may reveal no more than a literary game, but for a feminist historian they are a wealth of information about societal attitudes towards women, for if they did not have a climate in which to flourish they would not be in existence today. It is now time that historians deconstruct the texts of the Swetnam controversy and develop a better understanding of their place in seventeenth-century England.Dept. of History, Philosophy, and Political Science. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1994 .M395. Source: Masters Abstracts International, Volume: 33-04, page: 1131. Adviser: Jacqueline Murray. Thesis (M.A.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1994.