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Women in the principality of Antioch: power, status, and social agency.

Buck, Andrew D. ORCID: 2020. Women in the principality of Antioch: power, status, and social agency. Haskins Society Journal 31 , pp. 95-132. 10.1017/9781800101159.007

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Situated at the easternmost edge of Latin Christendom, the principality of Antioch (1098–1268) was a polity of great social and political complexity. It was formed following the First Crusade, and the Western Europeans who first settled there, and the generations who succeeded them, navigated a dynamic political and demographic landscape which in turn had a significant bearing on the nature of settlement and society. As may be expected for a state founded through war, and subject to frequent warfare and diplomatic negotiations, most historians of the principality have focused on its military and political history. Examination of its underlying social structures, in particular the experiences of women, has been sparser, save for select studies on Antioch's princesses and noble families.3 In part, this is a product of the available source material. We lack a Latin Christian narrative internal to Antioch after the 1120s, and what we do have largely treats women as tangential, if at all. On the other hand, there is ample documentary and legal evidence with which to build a fuller picture of the experiences and roles played by the female inhabitants of the principality. Furthermore, modern understanding of the principality is yet to properly engage with, and take advantage of, the wealth of recent historiography which has sought to de-exceptionalize female power. Such debates have considered the meaning of terms like ‘power’ and ‘agency’, such as they relate to the female experience in the Middle Ages, arguing that any understanding of power, its expression, and its experience should not simply be reduced to those elements traditionally gendered masculine, and so consider women involved in authority as extraordinary. Rather, as Theresa Earenfight has noted, ‘when we imagine … wide concentric circles of power, agency, and influence, we situate women of all ranks firmly within the imagined community of the realm’. In other words, power and agency could exist in many forms, with women not occasional, extraordinary actors, but fundamental to the political sphere, able to exercise authority over their and others’ destinies. It is the aim of this essay, therefore, to offer the first comprehensive examination of the social, legal, and political status of women in the principality of Antioch.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
ISSN: 0963-4959
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 August 2022
Date of Acceptance: 29 July 2020
Last Modified: 08 May 2023 23:04

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