Women’s Orients: English Women and the Middle East, 1718–1918

Sexuality, Religion and Work

  • Authors
  • Billie Melman

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xix
  2. Introduction

    1. Billie Melman
      Pages 1-22
  3. Orientalism, Travel and Gender

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 23-23
    2. Billie Melman
      Pages 25-56
  4. The Women’s Harem: Autonomy, Sexuality and Solidarity

  5. Evangelising the Orient: Women’s Work and the Evolution of Evangelical Ethnography

  6. A Secular Geography of the Orient: Authority, Gender and Travel

  7. Conclusion

    1. Billie Melman
      Pages 306-317
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 318-417

About this book


In this highly acclaimed study, Billie Melman recovers the unwritten history of the European experience of the Middle-East during the colonial era. She focuses on the evolution of Orientalism and the reconstruction - through contact with other cultures - of gender and class. Beginning with the eighteenth century Billie Melman describes the many ways in which women looked at oriental people and places and developed a discourse which presented a challenge to hegemonic notions on the exotic and 'different'. Through her examination of the writings of famous feminist writers, travellers, ethnographers, missionaries, archaeologists and Biblical scholars, many of which are studied here for the first time, Billie Melman challenges traditional interpretations of Orientalism, placing gender at the forefront of colonial studies. 'This book provides a real extension to Edward Said's writing not only in the sense of challenging Edward Said's perspective, but also by adding a significant empirical and conceptual element to the discussion on orientalism. Those interested in women's history, in the cultural politics of cross-cultural encounters and in feminist or cultural theory will find much to engage them, inform them and challenge them in Melman's book.' - Joanna De Groot, Times Higher Education Supplement 'Using the perspectives of both gender and class Melman sets an alternative view of the Orient against that of Said... a much less monolithic and much more complex and heterogenous than that of Said' - Francis Robinson, Times Literary Supplement 'Women's Orients is an important contribution to our understanding of Orientalism. Melman's work is characterized by a fruitful bringing together of the skills of the historian with the sensitive reading of the British women writers...' - Catherine Hall, The Feminist Review 'An excellent work... This book is a must for anyone interested in women's history, both English and Middle Eastern. It is well written and well argued and effectively does what it promises to do' - Afaf Lutfi Al-Sayyid Marsot, The International History Review 'Women's Orients, a project of recovery and analysis, is an important consideration of European women traveller's writing on the Middle East. It provides a rich and detailed interpretation of a feminine version of the Orient' - Sherifa Zuhur, MESA Bulletin 'The book raises provocative issues and suggests complexities that deepen our understanding of colonial changes and representations' - Dorothy O.Helly, American Historical Review.


bibliography eighteenth century Europe gender history Middle East women

Bibliographic information