Autonomous Queenship in Cambodia, 1st–9th Centuries AD
A brief glance at any bibliography for a history of Cambodia written in the last hundred years will reveal the immense preoccupation that historians have had with the institution of kingship. Yet nothing has been written on autonomously ruling queens, despite the acceptance by some twentieth-century historians that at least two such queens apparently ruled in pre-classical Cambodia (c. 50-802). These female sovereigns have been considered an anomaly, their reigns evidence that the political and social fabric of pre-classical society was rent asunder by the intrusion of female rulers into a male domain. Such a scenario is at variance with epigraphic evidence. One of the queens accepted by twentieth-century historians as an autonomous female ruler belongs to the eleventh century, not the seventh, as previously determined. Moreover, it appears that in most pre-classical Cambodian polities, women held the power of sovereignty, even if they did not rule independently. This not only raises questions regarding the accepted understanding of gender and power in pre-classical Cambodia, but also calls for a revision of pre-classical Cambodian history.
1 Correspondence should be addressed to the author at the School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. The author thanks Professor Martin Stuart-Fox for his comments and advice offered during the preparation of this paper.