The Question of the Queen Mother

Speaking of the linguistic booby traps that await the unwary in the pursuit of global history, as I believe we were, I offer you the example of the Queen Mother. In English, the term “Queen Mother” generally refers to the widow of a king* who is the mother of a reigning monarch. The term has…

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The Umbrella vs the Crown

In the course of writing Women Warriors, I wrote a lot of variations on the sentence “inherited the throne/crown” . (Or in several instances, “seized the throne/crown”. Because transfer of power is often not a bloodless event.) Eventually it dawned on me that while throne and crown can be actual objects, they are also metaphors…

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Oracle Bones

Historical texts sometimes take surprising forms. The earliest Chinese written records for instance are the “oracle bones” that were used in used in the art of “scapulimancy”, or bone divination, in Shang dynasty China (ca. 1600 -1046 BCE). The language used on the oracle bones was rediscovered in 1899 by a Chinese scholar named Wang,…

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