The Imperial Harem

The Imperial Harem : Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire

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The unprecedented political power of the Ottoman imperial harem in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is widely viewed as illegitimate and corrupting. This book examines the sources of royal women's power and assesses the reactions of contemporaries, which ranged from loyal devotion to armed opposition. By examining political action in the context of household networks, Leslie Peirce demonstrates that female power was a logical, indeed an intended, consequence of political structures. Royal women were custodians of sovereign power, training their sons in its use and exercising it directly as regents when necessary. Furthermore, they played central roles in the public culture of sovereignty-royal ceremonial, monumental building, and patronage of artistic production. The Imperial Harem argues that the exercise of political power was tied to definitions of sexuality. Within the dynasty, the hierarchy of female power, like the hierarchy of male power, reflected the broader society's concern for social control of the sexually active.

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  • Paperback | 400 pages
  • 152.4 x 233.7 x 20.3mm | 544.32g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New YorkUnited States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • halftones, maps
  • 0195086775
  • 9780195086775
  • 317,331

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Review quote

It is a well-informed, scholarly study which owes little to the contemporary Ottoman political theory which normally dominates the historiography of this period, and a good deal to sociological insight. Although much of Peirce's material and many of her individual points are not in themselves new, her overall approach is. The book is striking and refreshing for its consistent and detailed re-interpretation of a very large subject, examining the nature of Ottoman sovereignty in terms of the dynastic family as a whole rather than merely of the sultan who was its figurehead. Christine Woodhead, University of Durham, EHR, June 96

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About Leslie P. Peirce

Leslie P. Peirce is Professor of History and Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley

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