Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Leiden University, the Netherlands
Website URL
early modern women's history, early modern espionage, seventeenth-century women spies, Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia
Additional Contact Information
In the academic year of 2018/19, I'll be a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, UK

Personal Info

About Me

Nadine Akkerman is a Reader in Early Modern English Literature at Leiden University. She has published extensively on women’s history, diplomacy, and masques, and curated several exhibitions. She is the editor of The Correspondence of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia (OUP, 3 volumes, of which the first appeared in 2011), for which her prize-winning PhD (2008) serves as the groundwork. Her new book Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth-Century Britain will be out this summer (OUP, July 2018). She is currently writing a biography of Elizabeth Stuart (forthcoming from OUP). In 2017, the World Cultural Council recognised the transformative effect of her work in the form of a Special Recognition Award.

Recent Publications

Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth-Century Britain

It would be easy for the modern reader to conclude that women had no place in the world of early modern espionage, with a few seventeenth-century women spies identified and then relegated to the footnotes of history. If even the espionage carried out by Susan Hyde, sister of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, during the turbulent decades of civil strife in Britain can escape the historiographer’s gaze, then how many more like her lurk in the archives?

Nadine Akkerman’s search for an answer to this question has led to the writing of Invisible Agents, the very first study to analyse the role of early modern women spies, demonstrating that the allegedly-male world of the spy was more than merely infiltrated by women. This compelling and ground-breaking contribution to the history of espionage details a series of case studies in which women — from playwright to postmistress, from lady-in-waiting to laundry woman — acted as spies, sourcing and passing on confidential information on account of political and religious convictions or to obtain money or power.

The struggle of the She-Intelligencers to construct credibility in their own time is mirrored in their invisibility in modern historiography. Akkerman has immersed herself in archives, libraries, and private collections, transcribing hundreds of letters, breaking cipher codes and their keys, studying invisible inks, and interpreting riddles, acting as a modern-day Spymistress to unearth plots and conspiracies that have long remained hidden by history

Media Coverage
Country Focus
Expertise by Geography
England, Netherlands, United Kingdom
Expertise by Chronology
17th century, Early Modern
Expertise by Topic
Diplomacy, Gender, Women