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A Woman's Kingdom: Noblewomen and the Control of Property in Russia, 1700-1861 Hardcover – June 27, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0801439117 ISBN-10: 0801439116 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews


"This excellent book opens up the possibility of some fascinating comparisons. It illustrates, for example, how in comparison to the rest of Europe, Russia was both less bourgeois and less aristocratic. . . . Historians will note with interest Michelle Marrese's conclusion that female property rights were a uniquely Russian but by no means ancient phenomenon, and that they were indeed, as their advocates asserted, an important factor in enhancing the everyday freedom and life-chances of a large slice of Russian elite society. . . . In Professor Marrese's view, the advantages Russian noblewomen gained by control over property were far more than theoretical. They had a big impact on women's relative power, freedom and security in Russian elite society. . . . The place of property law within the whole Russian debate on modernization is a fascinating issue."—Dominic Lieven. Times Literary Supplement, December 6, 2002, No. 5201

"This pathbreaking analysis of noblewomen's control of property in Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries uses an astounding range of regional and national archival sources to examine inheritance law, testamentary behavior, . . . and legal petitions and suits. . . . This book should be required reading for scholars and students in European history, women's history, women's studies and Russian history. Summing Up: Essential."—Choice, March 2003

"Marrese has carefully constructed her argument on an extraordinarily wide source base drawing from Moscow and four provincial archives: Vladimir, Kashin, Tambov, and Kursk. She has made judicial use of notarial records, records of the sale and purchase of serfs and estates, wills, dowries, deeds of separation, and petitions for divorce, along with memoirs and contemporary literature. It is difficult to find any flaw in her meticulous research. . . . Marrese places her argument in two significant broader contexts, that of Imperial Russian culture generally and women's property rights in Europe."—Karen L. Taylor, Washington D.C., H-Russia

"It is an immensely authoritative, comprehensive, and important study of value not only to Russian historians but also to all serious historians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries."—Janet Hartley, American Historical Review, Oct '03

"This is an important book, on an under-studied subject, and it makes a very valuable contribution to our knowledge of Russian women's history."—Linda Edmondson, University of Birmingham, SEER 81:4, 2003

"This study of noblewomen's control of property in Russia is an example of women's history at its best. It provides both a . . . stud of Russian noblewomen's economic activity, thereby overcoming the tendency of many historians to ignore or make invisible women's role in this area, and it has important implications for the study of the Russian nobility as a whole. It is, thus, more than a corrective history of the 'marginal': rather it demands a rethinking of a whole noble culture of property, including attitudes of the Russian nobility to inheritance, to investment strategies, to the legal process, to the state, to corporate privileges for the nobility, and to a growing sense of individualism versus claims of the clan."—Brenda Meehan, University of Rochester, Slavic Review, 62:4, Winter 2003

"Michelle Lamarche Marrese demonstrates noblewomen's expanding rights in the eighteenth century on the basis of a rich array of archival and printed sources, including laws, court cases, and memoirs. She not only advances the study of women in Imperial Russia with deeply textured social history but fundamentally contributes to the growing literature on law, legal practice, and personal agency in Imperial Russia."—Nancy Shields Kollmann, Stanford University

"A Woman's Kingdom is an important and groundbreaking work. It sheds light on aspects of the daily and family life of the eighteenth-century Russian nobility, about which very little has been published in English. Michelle Lamarche Marrese makes thoughtful and intelligent use of an extraordinarily rich range of archival sources, many of which have never been used."—Barbara Alpern Engel, University of Colorado

"In a richly researched and elegantly argued account, Michelle Lamarche Marrese shows how the expansion of Russian noblewomen's rights to own land and control its disposition formed part of a larger progressive agenda: the protection of private property in general and the rule of law. Marrese's book is essential reading not only for specialists in women's studies, but also for any scholar interested in Russian law and society."—Eve Levin, Ohio State University

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (June 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801439116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801439117
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,333,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andreea Boier on February 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have always been preoccupied with the idea of "how backward is really the alleged Russian backwardness," and after reading Marrese I found myself even more troubled by the question, as she superbly describes the noblewomen's control of property in the 18th and 19th centuries Russia, a fact almost unheard of in the case of their Western European counterparts. My knowledge of legal history is limited at best, but this text brings to life many issues regarding the acquisition, management, and selling of land property exercised by women in the abovementioned period. The author argues in this book that the involvement of Russian women in property rights was not the result of state legislation, it was not the result of women Russian rulers at the time, and it was not even the result of manifested Russian cultural norms; rather, she traces the evolution of women's rights back to the Muscovy years and states that it was simply the result of Russian nobility's own struggle to ensure legal rights over their properties.

The text is clearly the result of meticulous and extensive archival research, bringing to light once again, but from a different angle, the complicated relationship between nobility and ruler, at the core of which property ownership plays the ultimate role. In that context, a picturesque description is the one of the rural Russian life seen not through the usual pathetic prism of suffering in serfdom, but through the elevated discussions of Russian noblewomen around not just stereotypical Parisian fashions as much as real estate matters, as in property and legal rights. It is certainly not the provincial image of Russian women that I had so far based on traditional historiography.
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A Woman's Kingdom: Noblewomen and the Control of Property in Russia, 1700-1861
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