Book Reviews Servants of the Dynasty: Palace Women in World History. Edited by anne walthall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. 400 pp. $60.00 (cloth); $24.95 (paper). This volume's fifteen essays treat gender issues in a variety of courts in China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Ottoman Empire, Byzantium, Russia, France, Nigeria, and the Americas (Aztecs and Mayas). It is a long overdue book. Feminist approaches to history in the last forty years have done an excellent job of undermining earlier male-centered paradigms. But most feminist historical scholarship has focused on retrieving women's agency or on women's struggles for empowerment and has thus downplayed women physically located in sites of elite power. This fine anthology is the first multi-country, multi-era collection on women living and working in the palaces of dynastic rulers. The volume's editor, Anne Walthall, did not ask the contributors--who include historians, anthropologists, and area studies specialists--to structure their essays around a set list of historical questions; the wide temporal and spatial span of the essays does not lend itself to such a straitjacket. And yet the chapters, taken together, suggest comparisons of systems of exchange that link commoners and elite men and women
Journal of World History – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Feb 3, 2010
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