Surveying European Women's History since the Millenium: A Comparative Review
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Surveying European Women's History since the Millenium:
A Comparative Review
Barbara Caine and Glenda Sluga. Gendering European History, 1780–1920. London and New York: Leicester University Press, 2000. 230 pp. ISBN 0-7185-0131-4 (cl); 0-7815-0132-2 (pb).
Lynn Abrams. The Making of Modern Woman: Europe 1789–1918. London: Longman, an imprint of Pearson Education, 2002. x + 382 pp. ISBN 0-582-41410-5 (pb).
Fiona Montgomery and Christine Collette, eds. The European Women's History Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. x + 380 pp. ISBN 0-415-22081-5 (cl); 0-415-22082-3 (pb).
Gisela Bock. Women in European History. Translated by Allison Brown. The Making of Europe Series. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002. x + 304 pp. ISBN 0-631-23191-9 (cl); 0-631-19145-3 (pb). [End Page 154]
Mary S. Hartman. The Household and the Making of History: A Subversive View of the Western Past. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. xi + 297 pp. ISBN 0-521-82972-0 (cl); 0-521-53669-3 (pb).
Rachel G. Fuchs and Victoria E. Thompson. Women in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Gender and History. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. viii + 208 pp. ISBN 0-333-67605-X (cl); 0-333-67606-8 (pb).
Mary Jo Maynes, Birgitte Søland, and Christina Benninghaus, eds. Secret Gardens, Satanic Mills: Placing Girls in European History, 1750–1960. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005. x + 312 pp. ISBN 0-253-34449-2 (cl); 0-253-21710-5 (pb).
Deborah Simonton, ed. The Routledge History of Women in Europe since 1700. London: Routledge, 2006. xvii + 397 pp. ISBN 0-415-30103-3 (cl); 0-415-43813-6 (pb).
Ann Taylor Allen. Women in Twentieth-Century Europe. Gender and History. New York and Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. ix + 208 pp. ISBN 1-403-94192-0 (cl); 1-403-94193-9 (pb).

Attempts to survey modern European women's history have come a long way since the 1970s. From Becoming Visible: Women in European History, edited by Renate Bridenthal and Claudia Koonz (1977; 1987; 1997), to the remarkable five volume History of Women in the West, edited and overseen by Georges Duby and Michelle Perrot (English edition, 1992–94), via Patricia Branca's brief, role-centered Women in Europe since 1750 (1978), Priscilla Robertson's eccentric and entertaining An Experience of Women: Pattern and Change in Nineteenth-Century Europe (1984), and Marilyn J. Boxer's and Jean H. Quataert's innovative thematic approach in Connecting Spheres: Women in the Western World, 1500 to the Present (1987; 2000), we can now draw on a vastly broader scope of knowledge about women of every rank, religion, and situation (urban or rural).1 These edited essay collections, while chronologically comprehensive, never pretended to be synthetic or truly comparative as did Bonnie G. Smith's 560 page synthesis Changing Lives: Women in European History Since 1700 (1989).2 Undoubtedly the most ambitious synthetic effort to date is A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present, by Bonnie S. Anderson and Judith P. Zinsser (1988; 2000).3 There is no doubt that women's history is infinitely richer, vastly more informed, nuanced, complex and comprehensive, reflecting the diversity of the women being studied as well as the mass of findings. But have we arrived at a truly comprehensive, comparative history of European women?

We now know enough to launch studies that explore similarities and differences, along with change over time and space. Yet comparative work that bridges more than two countries remains at an early stage. The expertise of most Anglophone scholars, largely national and monolingual (or, at best, bilingual) limits their capacity to work in the primary sources of more than a few prominent European countries, a handicap that becomes increasingly apparent as women's history scholarship in Hungarian, Russian, various Slavic languages, and Greek advances. Reliance on secondary works, especially in English or French, becomes increasingly necessary and increasingly problematic. Scholars based in Europe, notably Anne Cova, now spearhead efforts to encourage comparative analysis among other European-based women's historians. With few exceptions, however, these [End Page 155] colleagues remain bounded, even more than we Anglophones, by the...