Women on the Move in the Early Modern World

AHA Session 93
World History Association 1
Friday, January 6, 2017: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Mile High Ballroom 4B (Colorado Convention Center, Ballroom Level)
Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Female Agency and Migration in the Iberian Atlantic
Allyson M. Poska, University of Mary Washington
Protestant Women Who Travelled
Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Session Abstract

The early modern period was marked by a rapidly increasing level of travel, migration, and other types of human movement, on scales from the local to the global. Although Frederick Cooper and others have warned against envisioning a seamless process of ever-expanding and thickening connections after 1492 without paying attention to the limitations, unevenness, and ruptures in those links, it is hard not to see a significant shift in the scale and patterns of movement. Elites and common people moved across regions with greater frequency than ever before, establishing new kinds of contacts and networks of circulation of goods and ideas.

The vast majority of merchants, conquerors, slaves, and settlers who travelled great distances were men, as were most of those who moved shorter distances in many parts of the world. But women travelled and migrated as well--willingly, unwillingly, or some combination of these. As with every aspect of women’s existence, their movements have left fewer records than those of men, but scholars in a number of fields have begun using written, printed, and material sources to analyze their lives. This roundtable examines women who moved within, throughout, and between many different parts of the early modern world, and asks what commonalities and differences we might find in their experiences. It begins with the short-distance migration of a domestic servant in Japan, moves to women’s peninsular and transatlantic migration within the Iberian Atlantic, then examines the local and long-distance movements of Protestant women in Europe and the colonial world, and ends with the travels of an enslaved woman from Bengal across several of the world’s oceans. Each of the presentations thus includes one or more micro-histories as the participants ask themselves (and the audience) how these can contribute to a gendered analysis of travel and migration at the global scale.

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