3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2003
First off the book explains WHY female harems existed in the first place. The simple answer is this. If the sovereign gets married to a Princess of another power that power could lay claim to the throne. BUT if he has offspring with a bunch of slaves, women who are not of the Muslim faith and are not linked to powerful families, than outsiders could not lay claim to the throne by right of blood.
Yet don't think these concubines were powerless. In fact, through their sons and daughters, through networks based on retainers, son-in-laws and slaves, they gained great influence and wealth. Mothers of princes, wives and royal mothers to the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire, they were a big part of the inner workings and political events within the palace.
They were eyes and ears of the Sultan when he was away, they were symbols of benevolence and powerful diplomats for the Empire, they were tutors and guardians for their sons.
The book has a helpful glossary, a two page genealogical chart, two maps and is VERY detailed. I would suggest this book ONLY to people interested in the Ottoman Empire, the Middle East or women in history. It is also VERY dry.