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Women, gender, and siege during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, 1639-1652



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O'Driscoll, Alice 


This dissertation provides a gender history of the sieges conducted during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms: the constellation of conflicts that took place in Britain and Ireland between 1639 and 1652. Sieges created ‘distinct spaces of intensified and prolonged relationships to violence’ as opposed to field battles or massacres. This dissertation applies the lens of gender to siege warfare in order to uncover aspects of these relationships to violence which would otherwise remain obscure.

This dissertation explores various aspects of life for besieged women: the military strategy and operations that they devised or carried out; the economic (im)practicalities of governing a garrisoned household and the vulnerability associated with hosting quartered soldiers; the negotiation of tense diplomatic relations with besieging forces; and the exposure to sexualised forms of violence. I also evaluate the representation of besieged women in seventeenth-century texts and subsequent histories, to gain an understanding of how women’s roles were perceived by contemporaries and became distorted in local and national memory. Acknowledging the relational status of gender, one chapter considers masculinities within besieged and besieging armies. The final chapter examines the gendering of besieged spaces themselves, asking why and how towns, cities, and estates under siege in literature inspired by the Wars of the Three Kingdoms were coded as feminine.

This research therefore examines the particular relationship that siege warfare had both to women and to the feminine in seventeenth-century Britain and Ireland. My research has been designed to examine how and where this relationship registered, illustrating that there was not only one interface of gender and siege, but many. In doing so, it draws on evidence from an eclectic collection of source material including diaries, correspondence, newsbooks, domestic account books, garrison accounts, art, literature, depositions, and petitions.





Jackson, Clare


Siege Warfare, Gender History, History of Violence, Wars of the Three Kingdoms


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
AHRC (1953417)
Arts and Humanities Research Council (1953417)