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Women, Power, and the Eleventh and Twelfth Century Abbasid Court

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This paper focuses on the actions of a select number of elite women attached to the Abbasid court of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, addressing the differences not only in the actions of Abbasid and Saljùq women, but in the overall coverage by the medieval historians. Elite women of both households played key roles in the events surrounding the Abbasid bid to reenter the political arena as well as the ensuing chaos that followed. The question at the center of this work is how elite women were able to take advantage of the porous nature of the political arena. In the end, this study shows that whereas Saljùq women were successful in this endeavor, their Abbasid counterparts were all but written out of the narrative. An analysis of marriage alliances, attempts to maintain one's status, and succession crises support this contention, and reinforce the argument that we must readdress our notions of power, and strive to incorporate the lives of more women into the larger political narrative for this period.


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