By Anne Lemonde
Political Systems and Definitions of Gender Roles, edited by Ann Katherine Isaacs (University of Pisa, 2001)
Synopsis: Strangely enough, the political place of queens and princesses in the end of the Middle Ages had not been systematically investigated before the advent of gender history. This is indeed strange because understanding the political weight of a female sovereign is a very important institutional problem; that is to say, her place both in actual government and in creating the premises for the future is vital in a dynastic system. This gap has been partly filled by studies and important colloquia , but we still lack a complete synthesis for the period . This reinforces the interest of the topic. Moreover, this subject now benefits from a twofold historiographical revival: first, of course, the recent and ever-increasing importance of women’s history and, second, the return of interest in political history. It turns out that the meeting of these two historiographical fields is extremely fruitful, all the more so since each of the two uses methods and concepts which are very close to those of the other. Therefore the two sectors of historiographical research are tightly connected: anthropology (as a guide to studying representations, symbols and emblems) and prosopography (the method which gives the keys to understanding the component parts of a social structure) are the central pillars of the method of both, inherited from the long and profound work of social history in general which has taken place since the times of the great Marc Bloch. Even historians who usually do not keep company with gender history recognise the great interest of research on queens and princesses: therefore this should have become a fundamental problem.