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Gender, women, sexuality, masculinity and feminism: Special collections and other sources

Library resources for researching gender, women, sexuality, masculinity and feminism related topics

Special Collections of archives, rare books and more...

Two students looking at a rare bookThe University’s Special Collections are available to all students in the University. The collections include rare books, manuscripts, records, letters, photographs, maps and drawings. Use the search box below to find specific items on the Enterprise catalogue.


The Special Collections Service is based on the London Road campus, in the same building as the Museum of English Rural Life. Items from the Special Collections cannot be borrowed, but they can be consulted in the reading room. You’re advised to plan ahead and contact Special Collections prior to your visit, so that we can have the material ready for you for when you arrive.

Relevant items in our collections and archives

There are a few items within the archive and rare book collections that relate to gender studies.

The following collections may be relevant to your research and provide areas for potential study of gender roles.

Women's Land Army Collections

There are several collections relating to The Women’s Land Army (WLA), which was created in 1917 to help farmers cope with the shortage of male labour as a result of the First World War. It was brought back into action for the Second World War, at first as voluntary service and then as a form of conscription.

The Archive of British Publishing and Printing

This collection contains records of printing and publishing firms, including author correspondence, manufacturing and production information, and the marketing and review of the finished book. Within the archive there may be records of books published on the study of gender, women, sexuality, masculinity and manliness, and feminism or books written by authors that are key to studies of literature in these fields.

Authors in the collection that may be of interest are:

  • Virginia Woolf (Hogarth Press)
  • Doris Lessing (Jonathan Cape)
  • Colette (Chatto & Windus)
  • Carol Rumens (Chatto & Windus)
  • Robert Stroller (Chatto & Windus)

See the following links for more information about each of the publishers' collections:

All of the archives listed above are imprints of Random House, and access to these archives is granted by Penguin Random House - more information on the following page:

Author's papers

Special Collections also has a large collection of Authors' papers - literary manuscripts of 19th & 20th century novelists, poets and playwrights. Within the collection there may be papers of authors who published on the study of gender, women, sexuality, masculinity and manliness, and feminism.

Authors that may be of interest are:

Political correspondence

University of Reading Academics

Within Special Collections there are papers of University of Reading academics who may be of interest such as:

Other collections

Using Special Collections for your dissertation

If you would like to make use of the University's Special Collections for your dissertation research, a good place to start would be the Subject Explorer guides. This guide has been created to help you make use of the University of Reading Special Collections in your dissertation.

Inter-library loans

The ILL service can obtain a wide range of academic books, journals, and conference proceedings. Because of the costs involved it is meant only for material which is essential to your studies or research.

For more information see our Inter-Library Loans webpages:

Visiting other libraries

As a member of the University of Reading you can usually use other academic libraries. However, if you want to consult another Library's collections please contact the Library concerned before making a special journey.

You can identify some UK research and University libraries by looking at the list of libraries contributing to the Library Hub Discover service:

We are members of two SCONUL schemes which enable you to access many other UK HE libraries. In some cases you may be able to borrow.

For more information see our guide to using other libraries:


Reading University theses and dissertations

The Library receives a copy of all theses accepted for the degrees of PhD and MPhil by the University. All theses held by the Library can be found on the Enterprise catalogue. Recently submitted theses might also be available to download from the University's Institutional Repository, CentAUR.

Masters theses can usually be consulted in the relevant school or department.

Finding theses from other institutions

There are a number of specialist sources for finding theses produced at other institutions around the world. Many more are becoming available online making it much easier to get the full-text. For more information see our guide to finding theses.

See our guide to finding theses for more information:

Conference papers

Conference papers are published in a variety of ways - they may be published as a book, or as a special issue or supplement to a journal. Some may not be published at all!

If published promptly they can you give you the latest information on research in your field.

See our guide to finding conference papers for details of specialist sources for finding this type of information.

Box of Broadcasts (BoB)