CJ -- Politics

An RREO Original Review

Encyclopédie politique et historique des femmes: Europe, Amerique du Nord [Political and Historical Enclyclopedia of Women: Europe, North America]. Ed. Christine Fauré. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1997. 885 p. ISBN: 2130448316. FF 498

Neither a reference book proper nor a traditional textbook, this hefty work consists of 36 in-depth articles and several review articles on the political status of women in Europe and North America by an international team of well-known scholars. The densely written articles, many of them translated into French, center on important events and concepts and follow a chronological order which Fauré divides into (1) the era of political action on behalf of women under the Ancien Regime; (2) the era of revolutions; and (3) the historical and political conditions of women in the countries of Western Europe and North America.

The volume begins with a fascinating article by Sarah Hanley on the Salic law, a law first set down in the 6th century, then manipulated and interpreted by men in order to deny women the throne in France. Hanley's article is an excellent example of the importance of going back to sources and questioning evidence in cases where women's political rights are concerned. The volume ends with a well-documented summary report on the current (to 1995) status of women in individual countries, their voting patterns, and their role in the governance of national and international political bodies. In the end, after so much demonstrated combat, it is deeply distressing to read that, in spite of legislation, conferences, directives, and declarations by individual countries and international organizations, only in a few countries (Germany, Italy, and Luxembourg) has political representation by women increased. In France, for example, in 1992 women made up 6.4% of the National Assembly, down from 7.1% in 1981.

The breadth of coverage is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Information about women in Turkey or Greece or Portugal is not easily available. But, because the essays deal with events and concepts in very disparate societies, it is difficult to deduce patterns of behavior or mindsets characteristic of women in the countries studied. In her introduction, Christine Fauré posits that sufficient interdisciplinary information exists on the history of women in the west to make possible an encyclopedic assessment of women's role(s) in the significant events of western history. While these essays make an important contribution to the study of women in western societies, the collection does not yet allow us to speak of a "history of women," much less an encyclopedia.

Eva Sartori, University of Nebraska at Lincoln


Kleines Lexikon der ethnischen Minderheiten in Deutschland [Concise Dictionary of Ethnic Minorities in Germany]. Ed. Cornelia Schmalz-Jacobsen and Georg Hansen. München: Beck, 1997. 215 p. 18 cm. (Beck'sche Reihe, 1192) ISBN3-406-39292-X: DM 19.80

This concise dictionary is not an abridged version of its predecessor, Ethnische Minderheiten in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (see RREO 96-1-084). With the same compilers and editors but new contributors, it has achieved more objectivity and consistency, and is written more clearly than the earlier work. The diction of the thematic articles, however, is impaired by glib and overgeneralizing statements and tendentious and trendy sociological jargon. The entries are of uneven quality and comprise information about minorities' native countries, about the causes of their migration, their living conditions, their legal and social situation, and bibliographical references. Intending complete coverage of all the national and ethnic minorities in Germany, this work gives groups of over 1,000 members more substantial coverage and mentions smaller groups only briefly. The listing of minority organizations and their publications (print and electronic) is most interesting. [kuw/mj]

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