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Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery cover
  • ISBN: 9780231110143
  • ISBN10: 0231110146

Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery

by N. I. Matar

  • List Price: $95.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Columbia Univ Pr
  • Publish date: 06/01/1999
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In 16th- and 17th-century England, no foreigners were more part of the cultural exchange than the Islamic peoples of the Near and Middle East. During this early modern period -- when Islamic empires were strong and the colonizing interests of the English lay elsewhere -- Turks and Moors traded in English and Welsh ports; scores of emissaries and ambassadors dazzled Londoners with exotic cuisine and Arab horses; and the English, in turn, fought in Muslim armies or traded in Mediterranean harbors.

In an intriguing account of this little-explored facet of history, Nabil Matar presents a reexamination of the English geographic imagination. While most contemporary writing on English imperial history has sought to describe ethnocentrism and attempts at dominance over the non-Western world, "Turks, Moors, And Englishmen In The Age Of Discovery" casts fascinating new light on relationships between English and non-Western peoples. Rather than looking exclusively at literary work or travel narrative, which tended to present one-dimensional stereotypes of Islamic people -- Shakespeare's "superstitious Moor" or Goffe's "raging Turk, " to name but a few -- Matar unearths evidence of actual interactions between the English and Muslims. Delving into written records such as prison depositions, English captives' memoirs, and writings by English citizens who lived among Muslims or had spent long periods negotiating with them in trade, Matar offers proof of a rich tapestry of cultural interchange in Tudor and Stuart England.

While Matar does not suggest that English views on Muslims were altogether complimentary, his book displays the presence of a significant alternative to the prevailing discourse.He shows that it was theatrical performances that overwhelmingly cast Islamic people in an unfavorable light -- and indeed that this genre bore much responsibility for the emergence of popular antipathy for Islamic peoples.

Matar's work is an illuminating exploration of the subtleties of stereotype and reality that must be taken into account in a responsible depiction of English history.

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