Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals: 36 Great Women Before 1400

Narrated by: Joyce E. Salisbury
Length: 17 hrs and 53 mins
Categories: History, World
4.4 out of 5 stars (257 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Throughout history, women have played integral roles in family, society, religion, government, war - in short, in all aspects of human civilization. Powerful women have shaped laws, led rebellions, and played key roles in dynastic struggles. Some were caught up in forces beyond their control, while others manipulated and murdered their way to the top. However, unearthing their stories from the historical record has been a challenge, with the ordinary difficulties of preserving information across the generations increased by centuries of historical bias and gendered expectations. Women, when they were mentioned at all, often filled the role of virtuous maiden, self-effacing mother, or seductive villain. Imagine what you are missing when only half the story is being told.  

In Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals: 36 Great Women Before 1400, taught by Professor Emerita of Humanistic Studies Joyce E. Salisbury, you will experience another side of history, one that has often been overlooked. In these 36 lectures, women step out from the footnotes and sidebars of traditional history and into the spotlight, illuminating the dark corners of the pre-modern world along the way. From thwarted daughters and ambitious wives to fearless revolutionaries and brilliant philosophers, you will see how women have played diverse roles throughout history and why their influence is so vital to a fuller understanding of the world we live in today. Beginning at the start of the Roman Empire and carrying you through to the end of the Middle Ages, Professor Salisbury will introduce you to dozens of influential women from all across the globe.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 The Great Courses (P)2019 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals: 36 Great Women Before 1400

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A very solid course worth your time

This was a refreshing history course that serves two great purposes: 1- a reminder that women played a bigger role in ancient and medieval history than most recognize and 2- provides historical narrative we rarely get from other history courses or in a lot of cases NEVER get (I hadn't even heard of a lot of the women warriors and their battles with established empires like the Roman Empire or Islam). A wide range of regions are covered including China, Japan, Vietnam, Africa, Europe, Asia Minor, Russia, the middle east, and India and a wide spectrum of empires and peoples including the Roman Empire, Shogun Japan, Han and Tang China, Visigoths, Islamic, Rus, Mongols, Franks, Anglo-Saxons, Byzantine, Vikings, and medieval France and England. Professor Salisbury usually concludes each lecture with a summary of the legacy of that specific woman up until today. So in addition to understanding the woman’s impact in their own day we also get insight into how modern people of their native land view her (for example the professor will reference any statues created to honor the women, pilgrimages made in their honor by modern admirers, etc.). My personal highlights were Lectures 3, 11, 16, and 18. The hopping around from region to region and shifting from one empire or time to another can be disconcerting or jarring at times (until you get grounded in the time period and location shift) but I’m not sure Professor Salisbury could’ve done much to build continuity or cohesion between lectures (except maybe opening lectures by referencing that xxx time had passed since woman xxx from previous lecture had done xxx and the empire or region had changed by xxx). But the shifts actually can be seen as a positive: it kept things fresh and exciting leaving you to wonder which region we'd be traveling to in the next lecture. And the professor provided good contextual background in each lecture on the time and region before diving too much into the personal stories of the woman of study. Professor Salisbury was critical of nearly every male she discussed and while a lot of their behavior is in indeed abominable to us living in the modern day, it would’ve been better if their character/actions were compared to the standard of their day (i.e. were they more or less ruthless than the average noble/king of the day/region?). But these are minor gripes indeed. I recommend this course to anyone interested in the lesser known side of history and everyone who thinks ancient history was only made by men. I suspect the majority of TGC customers will find this 18 hour listen well worth their time.

85 people found this helpful

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Subpar Course

Do yourself a favor and, if you're interested in ancient history, go for another course. I suggest Garrett Fagan's courses on Rome. This is one of the most frustrating courses I've ever listened to. There are minor problems: Salisbury is too quick to focus on Christianity, which is somewhat distracting--picking Poppea over Agrippina to discuss because of Poppea's possible impact on Christianity, for example, was disappointing to me, as there's a lot more known and to be said about Agrippina. Salisbury accepts on a very broad level if a woman was "good" or "bad," talking about how she prefers Plotina, who was "virtuous," to some of the other women. Herodias, on the other hand, is presented as a flat, villainous character. What's so disappointing about this, however, is the quality of the analysis of the historical sources. It's irresponsible for a modern historian to accept this many sources as uncritically as Salisbury appears to. When we talk about the history of women, we must acknowledge that the majority of sources were written by men; when we talk about ancient history, we must discuss the goals that each writer had, and why that goal was not always strict accuracy. Garrett Fagan did an excellent job of discussing this, of taking into account a variety of historical sources in addition to traditional histories, such as public records, and the interpretations that could be made from them Salisbury, on the other hand, seems to rely on a small number of the most obvious historical records and accept them without critical thought. She talks about Agrippina poisoning Claudius, and makes a comment along the lines of "why would we question what the sources tell us?" Well, because we know that historians wrote for specific audiences and often drew in common themes, and the trope of woman-as-viper deserves more scrutiny than that. Salisbury acknowledges that modern historians question the accuracy of Procopius' Secret History, a ridiculously salacious history that, in fact, was kept secret until after those alive to attest to its authenticity had died, but then makes the vague claim that enough other sources support Procopius' tale of Theodora as a child prostitute, and then goes on to present details that appear only in Procopius without talking how tonally different his version is. There are, by the way, also historical sources that present different versions of Theodora's life, but Salisbury relies largely on the stories told by a man with a strong bias against Theodora. Procopius also claims that her husband, Justinian, was a literal demon. Salisbury doesn't mention that. This course as a whole a shallow, surface history, and perhaps that's necessary for one with such a broad scope, but I've come to expect better from the Great Courses. Women have waited so long to have our stories told that we deserve better than this.

217 people found this helpful

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Women’s contribution in the pre-modern times

Wonderful and so full of fascinating information! The lecturer was excellent . I want more like this.

10 people found this helpful

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Excellent!

Refreshing views of historical women from historical facts. The author told this story well! I learned a lot... Thank you!

9 people found this helpful

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A good course which could be better

The author has a weird habit of referring to all civs which happen to be Muslim (Ottomans, Ummayads, Abbasids, Seljuks) as "the Muslims" she does not do this with Christian, Buddhist, or Confucian civs Good course but more Eurocentric than I would have liked.

3 people found this helpful

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Too scattershot

I love many of the great courses, and I was excited about this one, but I fear the structure led to rather shallow biographies of figures who deserve lengthier treatment. Additionally, there was very little to connect these figures besides the fact that they're all women. If you know absolutely nothing about these figures, it's not a bad intro, and maybe you'll be inspired to follow these introductions down the rabbit hole. But if you know something about many of these figures, maybe this entry is less than worthwhile. For example, many of the figures are from the Western Christian tradition. I did a PhD in medieval history and studied the history of the Church extensively, and I found myself not really learning anything.

1 person found this helpful

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Terrific narration.

I was quite impressed with Ms. Salisbury’s strong voice. I have never heard of many of these ladies but each achieved recognition in their contribution to history.

1 person found this helpful

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Annoying slanted and political left wing

Got halfway through and gave up in disgust. Every single story is slanted to show how horrible men are and how they wrote history to make women look bad, stupid and crazy. Granted, alot of history is actually like that but in the three hours that I listened to this book trash the Bible and other well known and reliable historical sources there wasn't one positive thing said about a man or a decision he made EXCEPT a few weak willed Roman Emperors. Yeah, we weren't given a choice about a lot that happened in history, but neither was anyone else!

1 person found this helpful

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I really liked it.

the book passed the time while I sew. it covered a lot of women i had not heard of before and gave a more detailed perspective on those i was familiar with. Very enjoyable.

1 person found this helpful

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Too reliant on dubious sources and fails to address the status of her source material

Professor Salisbury shows a less than critical acceptance of unreliable sources for Western “Great Women” or a lack of awareness in the status of the literature of those early western sources. This lack of methodological concern for “Great Women” of the the West should cause listeners to be concerned for her portrayal of non-European “Great Women.”

1 person found this helpful

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  • GR BUTLER
  • 04-26-20

Fascinating and well delivered

A broad and comprehensive examination of the lives of women from various corners of the globe - some of which you’ll know, others that are likely to be unfamiliar to you. Scholars, administrators, mystics, queens and warriors. You won’t like them all - but each lecture taught me something new and deepened my understanding of history and just how many women are written out of it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • smetters
  • 08-18-19

Some very interesting women

Good variety. well written and engaging. As a history teacher I will be talking about these ladies now with more colour.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-23-19

Interesting .. accurate?

Engaging material. My interest was piqued early with reference to Josephus and Jesus. Also the claim about the first novelist, Lady Murasaki. Definitions of a novel could be the hitch here, but written stories have been around for centuries, the earliest being Gilgamesh. Still, there's history here from a different angle & people I never knew. More focus on men than I expected.