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Political influence of ‘women above stairs’

A new volume, co-edited by Nadine Akkerman of the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society, shows how ladies-in-waiting, by 'creatively manipulating their gender', often played a major role in shaping the political climate of Europe in the early modern period.

Political influence

The Politics of Female Households presents evidence and analysis of the many different ways in which ‘women above stairs’ shaped the European courts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It shows clearly that the political climate of Europe was often shaped outside the male-dominated institutions of government and administration. As Akkerman and Houben comment, 'By creatively manipulating their gender as a tool for political propaganda, these leading court women were able to transcend the alleged limitations of their sex. In doing so, they became powerful political players.'

Espionage and intelligence-gathering

This work reveals, through analysis of letters, family networks, career patterns, gift exchanges and household structures, that these women not only played a role in politics, they also had an influence on the culture of the period. Many of them were even involved in espionage and intelligence-gathering.

Publication details

The Politics of Female Households
Edited by Nadine Akkerman and Birgit Houben
Publisher : Brill, Leiden, the Netherlands
ISBN: 9789004236066

Dr Nadine Akkerman is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer in Early Modern English Literature at Leiden University, and an Associate of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL) in London. She is the editor of The Correspondence of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia (OUP), for which her prize-winning PhD (2008) serves as the groundwork. She has been contracted to write a biography of Elizabeth Stuart.

Dr Birgit Houben received her PhD from Ghent University in 2009, and was a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Netherlands History in The Hague. She currently works at the University of Antwerp where she is responsible for the organisation of the research assessment exercises and the corresponding bibliometry.

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