1st Edition

Narrating the Dragoman’s Self in the Veneto-Ottoman Balkans, c. 1550–1650

By Stefan Hanß Copyright 2023
    352 Pages 20 Color & 29 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    352 Pages 20 Color & 29 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This microhistory of the Salvagos—an Istanbul family of Venetian interpreters and spies travelling the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Mediterranean—is a remarkable feat of the historian’s craft of storytelling. With his father having been killed by secret order of Venice and his nephew to be publicly assassinated by Ottoman authorities, Genesino Salvago and his brothers started writing self-narratives. When crossing the borders of words and worlds, the Salvagos’ self-narratives helped navigate at times beneficial, other times unsettling entanglements of empire, family, and translation.

    The discovery of an autobiographical text with rich information on Southeastern Europe, edited here for the first time, is the starting point of this extraordinary microbiography of a family’s intense struggle for manoeuvring a changing world disrupted by competition, betrayal, and colonialism. This volume recovers the Venetian life stories of Ottoman subjects and the crucial role of translation in negotiating a shared but fragile Mediterranean. Stefan Hanß examines an interpreter’s translational practices of the self and recovers the wider Mediterranean significance of the early modern Balkan contact zone. Offering a novel conversation between translation studies, Mediterranean studies, and the history of life-writing, this volume argues that dragomans’ practices of translation, border-crossing, and mobility were key to their experiences and performances of the self.

    This book is an indispensable reading for the history of the early modern Mediterranean, self-narratives, Venice, the Ottoman Empire, and Southeastern Europe, as well as the history of translation. Hanß presents a truly fascinating narrative, a microhistory full of insights and rich perspectives.

    A Mediterranean Microhistory: Translation, Self, and Storytelling in the Early Modern Imperial Balkans

    The Bridge over the Drina

    1 A Familiar Thesaurus: Interpreting Empires

    Klis, Croatia, August 19, 2017, 8am

    2 Translation, Space, and Mobility: The Balkan Travels of Genesino Salvago

    On (Dis)Connections

    3 The Interpreter’s Mediterranean Self:
    Commerce, Espionage, and War

    Genesino Salvago’s "I Poem"

    4 The Dragoman, A Would-Be Writer: Visibility, Authorship, and the Self in the Seventeenth-Century Contact Zone

    Study of Perspective

    Translation, Family, Espionage: Interpreting Early Modern Imperial Interpreters

    Jtinerario del Viaggio da Costantinopoli sino à Spalato, e Traù, fatto da me Genesino Saluagho Dragomanno (1618)



    Stefan Hanß is a Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at The University of Manchester and the winner of a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award and a Philip Leverhulme Prize. From September 2023, Hanß will also serve as Deputy Director and Scientific Lead of the John Ryland Research Institute. He has published widely on global history, material culture, and Mediterranean studies, more recently with a focus on hair and featherwork. Hanß is the author of two monographs on the Battle of Lepanto and the editor of Mediterranean Slavery Revisited (500–1800) (2014), The Habsburg Mediterranean, 1500–1800 (2021), Scribal Practice and Global Cultures of Colophons, 1400–1700 (2022), and In-Between Textiles, 1400–1800: Weaving Subjectivities and Encounters (2023).

    "A timely, deeply researched, and beautifully written work that boldly stakes out new ground between the fields of translation studies, the history of empires, and archival studies (among many others). Part historical monograph and part personal memoir, this ‘genre-bending’ work puts a usually invisible actor—the early modern translator—at the center of its story, making the convincing case that such figures are the creators rather than the passive bystanders of history."

    Giancarlo Casale, European University Institute Florence.

    "Stefan Hanß is one of the most imaginative and productive scholars working in Mediterranean studies today. His microbiography of the Venetian Dragoman Genesino Salvago is the first detailed study of one of these critical linguistic and cultural intermediaries, and it opens a fascinating window onto the dynamic world of the early modern Mediterranean. It is a welcome and important contribution that will be of great interest and value to both students and scholars."

    Eric Dursteler, Brigham Young University.

    "Through an in-depth historical contextualization and masterful storytelling, Stefan Hanß takes his reader to an exciting road trip with the dragoman Genesino Salvago. The result is a unique view of the people and places in Southeastern Europe which shaped, and were shaped by, Ottoman-Venetian relations in the seventeenth century."

    Aslı Niyazioğlu, Oxford University.

    "This is a meticulously researched and lovingly crafted study of Genesino Salvago, an Ottoman-born interpreter working in the Venetian imperial service. It offers a sensitive investigation of Genesino the man and a compelling reconstruction of the world in which he lived. Along the way, it raises important questions about loyalty, selfhood, and history-writing. It is a must-read for anyone interested in travel and translation in the early modern Mediterranean."

    Helen Pfeifer, Cambridge University.

    "Stefan Hanß has written a compelling study of a dragoman’s wide web of familial and professional ties across varied temporalities, geographies, languages, and jurisdictions. His historical and literary exploration of selfhood, mobility, and translation across the Ottoman-Venetian borderlands brims with insight. This microhistorical study offers an exciting model for other scholars who seek to overcome the limitations of taciturn imperial archives and their power-laden structures of knowledge and erasure."

    Natalie Rothman, University of Toronto.