Journal of World History 12.2 (2001) 460-462
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Women Rulers Throughout the Ages: An Illustrated Guide
Women Rulers Throughout the Ages: An Illustrated Guide. By GUIDA JACKSON. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 1999. Pp. 471. $75.00 (cloth).
The idea for this book is very welcome and its scope ambitious. It is a broadly researched work, an extensive encyclopedia of information on women rulers from societies around the world, from ancient times to the present. It is without question an important resource; even a leisurely stroll through its pages offers amazing insights into the vast spectrum of women who have ruled over their people in various ways.
There are a number of problems, however, with the text that require some caution from the reader. While an alphabetical arrangement in an encyclopedic format is understandable, it actually hinders clarity. Arranging the work by country or region and chronology, as in the "Geographical Chronology of Entries" listing preceding the text (pp. xv-xxix), would make it possible to appreciate the lives and activities of the women rulers in their historical and cultural contexts. As is, the alphabetical order results in unbalanced presentation of information: for example, the entry on Aelfwyn immediately precedes that of her mother Aethelflaed; yet the description of their realm Mercia occurs under the latter, leaving one wondering where it was that Aelfwyn ruled (pp. 8-9). This chronological reversal occurs frequently, detracting from the coherency of the descriptions.
In other cases, there is unnecessary repetition of information, as in the entries on Yemeni rulers Alam al-Malika, 'Arwa Bint Ahmad al-Sulayhiyya, and Asma Bint Shihab al-Sulayhiyya. Information on "the khutba (a sermon affirming a sovereign's right to rule)" (p. 41) is repeated in these three entries, even though they occur close together, the last two separated by only one entry. Moreover, a geographical/ chronological arrangement would show, in these as well as other instances, that two queens are ruling neighboring regions contemporaneously, thereby strengthening the impact of the book's information.
Other problematic points: uneven identification of geographical regions, where some are extensively described, notably those in Africa, while the location of others is not given at all, for example, Bourbon (p. 10). Some entries give confusing dates, such as for the Babylonian ruler Addagoppe of Harran, giving her birth as 445 B.C.E., ruling c. 522 B.C.E., her death as 543 or 547 (pp. 3-4); the Egyptian ruler Meryit-Net is dated to c. 300 B.C.E., though the text and other sources date her to the first dynasty, c. 2900 B.C.E. (p. 290). The introduction frequently references historical epochs without providing dates (for example, Confucian China, and the Byzantine and Mongolian empires, pp. xxxix-xl). [End Page 460]
Also inconsistent is the spelling of names. Granted that orthographic variations exist as a result of dialectical differences, changes over time and place, and varying transliterations. Jackson provides alternate names for some but not all. Her choice of the primary name to use is at times puzzling: instead of the more commonly known Sobekneferu of the Egyptian twelfth dynasty, Jackson discusses her as Nefrusobek (p. 302). In the entry for Hausa Queen Amina, her mother is identified as Turonku Batwa (p. 21), which is spelled Turunku Bakwa elsewhere (pp. xxxv, 399), with no explanation given for this spelling change.
Especially puzzling is why some well-known historical queens were omitted, notably Nefertiti of Egypt, c. 1353-35 B.C.E., and Berenice II, Ptolemaic queen of Egypt, 246-21 B.C.E. Jackson notes in her preface that she focused on women who ruled in their own right, including also female rulers who "dominated the designated rulers completely" (p. xxxii). At the least Berenice II co-ruled with her brother/husband Ptolemy III, and was so recognized in her own time. Nor is it apparent why Nefertiti's immediate predecessor, Queen Tiy, wife of Amenhotep III, is included (pp. 393-94), but under the entry on Eji (p. 123) only brief mention is made...