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Lecture | LUCIS What's New?! Series

Concubines vs. Khatuns: Sexual Slavery and Marriage Policy in the Turco-Mongol Middle East

Thursday 6 October 2022
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What's New?! Fall Lecture Series 2022
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden
Empress Chabi wearing a boqtaq

Concubines and slave women have formed a key part of Middle Eastern societies and many others throughout much of history. With the advent of Turco-Mongol groups such as the Seljuqs and the Mongols, nobly-born free women married to the khans, known as khatuns, dominated the female positions of power in these dynasties. These women’s open involvement in politics often shocked contemporary historians and scholars. However, over time, these khatuns were less often able to produce heirs for their rulers, weakening their practical influence if not their status. Concubines began usurping the khatuns’ childbearing role, and many of their children rose to rulership. In the period of the Ilkhanate in the Middle East, several concubines managed to break through the glass ceiling of their low birth to achieve full wife status. While this may have been due to the lower reproductive ability of the late Ilkhans, the concubines’ position in later Turco-Mongol dynasties such as the Timurids and the Ottomans only increased, completely supplanting official wives in the latter case.

About Toby Jones

Toby Jones is a PhD Candidate at Leiden University. He completed his Bachelor at the University of St. Andrews in the field of Mediaeval History, before moving to the Netherlands to do a Research Masters in Middle Eastern Studies. His research primarily focuses on the Mongol Empire, with his PhD title being ‘Mongol Loyalty Networks: Cultural Transmission and Chinggisid Innovation’. He has taught courses at the Bachelor and Master level, dealing with the history of Central Asia and the Middle East, and on Turco-Persian states in the medieval and early modern period.

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