Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Jacob Selwood

Second Advisor

Dr. Ian Fletcher

Third Advisor

Dr. J.T. Way

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Nick Wilding


Seventeenth-century England witnessed a surge in the population and the movement of bodies in and out of the city of London, resulting in anxiety and distrust. This masculine social anxiety fixated on the female body as an unknowable space uncontrolled by patriarchal authority, despite efforts through legislation. Violent women in early modern England were used as public spectacle after being subjected to surveillance for their failure to perform to their gendered expectations, both revealing the male anxieties prevalent in society and allowing the maintenance of patriarchy. An examination of violent women through legislation, printed material, and court records reveals the ways in which early modern English society enacted a society of surveillance and thus difference. This dissertation examines the deeper social and cultural meanings of violence, its portrayals, and the social legitimization of violence.

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