Skip to main content

Women’s practical Literacy and Learning Practices in the late Middle Ages (1350-1500)


Project ACTILIT will focus on female literacy and female literate education at the end of Middle Ages (1350-1500). The ER will adopt a new historiographical approach centered on - a crucial element for the improvement of personal agency - the concept of practical literacy, i.e. one’s abilities to read, write and count in every-day life for practical purposes. ACTILIT will also renew our vision of the role of women in the transmission of literate skills, by highlighting the importance of the role of mothers as first teachers of their children, and nuns’ monasteries as centers of education for both religious and lay girls. Based on the analysis of different sets of documentation written by women (nuns’ archival fonds and corpora of letters), ACTILIT will bring into light (1) the main characteristics of female practical writing (script, accounting techniques, purposes of female practical writings) and the diffusion of such skills among women in a specific society (Tuscany); (2) the knowledge transmissions chains (from mother to daughters, nuns to lay women) and the content of the gendered literacy that was taught to girls; (3) the differences in female practical literacy (formal characteristics, use, extent in society) in different European regions, thanks to the comparison between sets of documents from Tuscany and Germany, that will serve as a foundation for a broader study, at a European level, on women’s capacity to write and count in the pre-modern period. ACTILIT will thus radically change our perception of the relationship between women and literacy in past times.

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call


Universitaetsstrasse 1
40225 Dusseldorf
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 174 806,40