Duramar The University of Queensland. The Imperial Harem : Leslie P. Peirce : leslje Account Options Sign in. The House of Osman.
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Needless to say I was intrigued and decided to peruse the history section of my university library in search of books on the Ottoman Empire and specifically on the harem.
Despite being a history student, I have never studied the Ottoman Empire in detail as my focus up till now has been on Europe, America and the modern world. So I went into this book with very little background information on the Ottomans or their modes of government and authority. Nonetheless, I can safely say that I enjoyed this book, despite my being woefully under prepared for it. The Imperial Harem is rigorously researched, insightful and brimming with historical detail and analysis.
The main arguments of the book are that the royal women of the Harem played critical and influential roles within the politics and government of the Ottoman Empire, that the Sultan relied heavily on his female relatives and concubines for alliances, advice and for the production of royal heirs and that the nature of Ottoman sovereignty changed dramatically throughout the history of the Empire.
To say that this is a heavy going book is an understatement. It is clearly meant for an academic audience and the author often delves into intense analysis which may leave the general reader a little lost. Informative and dense, this book requires patience and a willingness to understand the various theories being proposed. However, it is still a fascinating and well-written read for those prepared.
The Imperial Harem is focused into two components. Section 1: The Politics of Reproduction. This sections provide a broad overview of the Ottoman Empire from the reign of Osman I to the reign of the child Sultan Mehmed IV and details how and why the Sultans preferred serial concubinage in the production of royal heirs then to them marrying into other royal houses.
This is a brilliantly researched and thoughtful piece; relentless in destroying the damaging Western obsession with the harem as a place of sexual intrigue and lust. Pierce puts the Harem in context and explains it workings as an institution and why it was the locus for power in the Ottoman world. In the intro, she smoothly sorts out the myths of the Harem and places the institution into its proper standing in historiography. Section 2:Women and Sovereign Power This section concerns the authority and political aptitude wielded by influential members of the harem particularly the Valide Sultan and the Grand Vizier.
Pierce discusses the transformative images of Ottoman Sovereignty as the Empire ceased to expand and instead focused its energy and resources on maintaining its vast territories. The various public charities, good deeds, public processions, the building of grand mosques and tombs were celebrated displays of royal power and privilege; meant to broadcast who was in charge and to bolster popular support.
Pierce argues that the diplomacy carried out by the Valide Sultans and the Sultans favoured concubines ensured more successful international relations. This section leans to more the theoretical than the previous one and is good deal more analytical and thoughtful.
It is highly interesting and will question the readers attitude towards the harem. All in all, this was an excellent, well-rounded and academically brilliant book into the real historical value and influence of the royal Harem.
Might be a much for the general reader to follow. Hushour rated it really liked it A re-envisioning of the role of women at the Ottoman courts of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Pretty good stuff: details the politicizing of reproduction, concubines, and the political responsibilities of moms, slave women, and the ways in which male dynasts were moving in the same arenas of "seclusion".
Fully illustrated but not in the way you might want. Oct 31, Larissa Nordholt rated it it was amazing A must-read for anyone interested in harem politics in the Ottoman empire! Caveat: Not for strictly chronological historical account. This book is more about how certain governmental bodies and traditions evolved according to the demands and circumstances of their time; not about giving a year by year guide for people who are unfamiliar with Ottoman history.
You can still read it without knowing much about Ottoman history, but it would be very challenging to follow. Have always been fascinated about this particular subject but could find no revelent books written about it!
Finally one has been! A good book all-round only wish there were more written!
The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire
The Imperial Harem