Travellers from Europe in the Ottoman and Safavid Empires, 16th–17th Centuries: Seeking, Transforming, Discarding Knowledge, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Travellers from Europe in the Ottoman and Safavid Empires, 16th–17th Centuries

Seeking, Transforming, Discarding Knowledge, 1st Edition

By Sonja Brentjes


352 pages

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Hardback: 9781409405337
pub: 2010-10-28
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This collection of Sonja Brentjes's articles deals with travels, encounters and the exchange of knowledge in the Mediterranean and Western Asia during the 16th and 17th centuries, focusing on three historiographical concerns. The first is how we should understand the relationship between Christian and Muslim societies, in the period between the translations from Arabic into Latin (10th - 13th centuries) and before the Napoleonic invasion of Ottoman Egypt (1798). The second concern is the "Western" discourse about the decline or even disappearance of the sciences in late medieval and early modern Islamic societies and, third, the construction of Western Asian natures and cultures in Catholic and Protestant books, maps and pictures. The articles discuss institutional and personal relationships, describe how Catholic or Protestant travellers learned about and accessed Muslim scholarly literature, and uncover contradictory modes of reporting, evaluating or eradicating the visited cultures and their knowledge.


'Sonja Brentjes's work is a meticulous account of cultural transactions between the Middle East and Europe across two centuries. She demonstrated conclusively that while stereotypes about Islamic learning and sciences may have existed, these were also constantly modified - as was Western knowledge about them - because of the transactions with local scholars. The volume is an important counter to the assumption that all Western evaluations about Islam were merely orientalist; in fact, many were full of praise and admiration.' Sixteenth Century Journal '… we should welcome the apparition of this volume, which is an important contribution to Arabic and Islamic studies… the choice of the topic and, specially, the period of time considered are truly attractive. Whereas cultural interchanges between Islamic countries and Europe in Medieval or Contemporary times had been a subject of many essays, the 16th and the 17th centuries were almost forgotten by most scholars. When, in 1999, the author started to analyse these centuries, a major change happened… Sonja Brentjes covers the gap seeking for an innovative point of view, rejecting the borders between closed disciplines.' Suhayl '… a valuable collection of primary sources on learning and knowledge… Her language is clear and sober without the need for convoluted embellishment. They not only bring to the attention of the reader various unpublished works pertaining to the early modern period on the culture, sciences and knowledge in general in Iran and the Ottoman Empire, but also re-interpret and rightfully dispute a fundamental aspect of historiography on these countries.' Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction; The interests of the Republic of Letters in the Middle East, 1550-1700; On the relation between the Ottoman empire and the West European Republic of Letters (17th-18th centuries); The presence of ancient secular and religious texts in the unpublished and printed writings of Pietro della Valle (1586-1652); Pietro della Valle's Latin Geography of Safavid Iran (1624-1628): introduction (with Volkmar Schüller); Early modern Western European travellers in the Middle East and their reports about the sciences; Pride and prejudice: the invention of a 'historiography of science' in the Ottoman and Safavid empires by European travellers and writers of the 16th and 17th centuries; Peiresc's interests in the Middle East and Northern Africa in respect to geography and cartography; Astronomy a temptation? On early modern encounters across the Mediterranean sea; Index.

About the Author

Sonja Brentjes is researcher in a Project of Excellence of the Government of Andalucia, Departamento de Filosofía y Lógica, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at [email protected]

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General