New York University

From the 2020 Award for Scholarly Distinction citation in the 2021 Annual Meeting Awards Ceremony booklet

Leslie P. Peirce, a world-renowned Ottomanist, is Silver Professor and professor of history at New York University. She holds appointments in the departments of history and Middle Eastern studies.

Peirce’s major works include The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire (Oxford Univ. Press, 1993), Morality Tales: Law and Gender in the Ottoman Court of Aintab (Univ. of California Press, 2003), and Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire (Basic Books, 2017). She has received a number of book prizes and scholarly grants. She has twice been awarded the biannual M. F. Köpülü Prize, the top prize in the field of Ottoman and Turkish studies, as well as a number of other awards, including the Albert Hourani Award for the best book in Middle East studies, given annually by the Middle East Studies Association. She has received grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Philosophical Society, Fulbright, the Social Science Research Council, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

Peirce is a pioneering and resourceful interpreter of Ottoman texts and archival researcher (especially in Islamic court records). She has played a major, transformative role not only in the field of Ottoman history, but also in the history of women and gender in the Middle East. Her scholarship has compelled a reconsideration of Ottoman rule and dynastic practices, the role of the harem in elite Ottoman culture, and the way that the Ottoman administration worked with the court system to integrate disparate populations as the empire expanded. She has shown that gender was a key component of Ottoman governance, and that an understanding of the lives of ordinary people no less than elites is critical to the history of Ottoman expansion and administration.