A discussion of Leslie Peirce’s new book, Empress of the East, the life story of Roxelana (Hurrem in Turkish), beloved concubine of Suleyman the Magnificent and the only queen the Ottomans ever knew. Challenging the persistent view that Roxelana’s scheming undermined the empire, the book argues that the changes she and Suleyman wrought instead strengthened the dynastic regime. Roxelana’s most consequential accomplishment was the aggrandizement of the imperial harem’s political stature. The book hopes to move the history of sixteenth-century women rulers eastward, geographically beyond what the traditional narrative tells us about female power. The panel brings perspectives from outside the empire as well as from later Ottoman times.
Assistant Professor of History, City College, CUNY
Silver Professor of History, NYU
Professor of Italian, Comparative Literature, NYU