"Empress Of The East" With Leslie Peirce On Wednesday's Access Utah

Nov 15, 2017

Credit Amazon.com

The extraordinary story of the Russian slave girl Roxelana, who rose from concubine to become the only queen of the Ottoman empire

 In Empress of the East, historian Leslie Peirce tells the remarkable story of a Christian slave girl, Roxelana, who was abducted by slave traders from her Ruthenian homeland and brought to the harem of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in Istanbul. Suleyman became besotted with her and foreswore all other concubines. Then, in an unprecedented step, he freed her and married her. The bold and canny Roxelana soon became a shrewd diplomat and philanthropist, who helped Suleyman keep pace with a changing world in which women, from Isabella of Hungary to Catherine de Medici, increasingly held the reins of power. Until now Roxelana has been seen as a seductress who brought ruin to the empire, but in Empress of the East, Peirce reveals the true history of an elusive figure who transformed the Ottoman harem into an institution of imperial rule. 

Leslie Peirce's writing and teaching focus on the Ottoman empire, with an emphasis on the early modern period. One thread that runs through her work is the ways in which women and men participate and interact in various contexts. Her first book explored the shifting nature of imperial politics by placing the palace harem at the center of inquiry. Likewise her second book, which examines aspects of law and society in a provincial court by exploring women, utilization of the court (or avoidance of and inability to approach it) and what that can tell us about community as well as imperial dynamics. Other topics Peirce has written about include honor and sexuality, provincial politics, abduction and captivity, and slavery and household formation. She is currently writing a biography of Hurrem  the concubine and then wife to Suleyman I the magnificent.