An Early Modern Dialogue with Islam: Antonio de Sosa's Topography of Algiers (1612)

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About the Book

An Early Modern Dialogue with Islam: Antonio de Sosa's Topography of Algiers (1612) makes available in translation a riveting sixteenth-century chronicle of European and North African cultural contacts that is virtually unknown to English-speaking readers. The Topography was written by a Portuguese cleric, Doctor Antonio de Sosa, who was captured by Algerian corsairs in 1577 and held as a Barbary slave for over four years while awaiting ransom. Sosa's work is a fascinating description of a city at the crossroads of civilizations, with a sophisticated multilingual population of Turks, Arabs, Moriscos, Berbers, Jews, Christian captives, and converts to Islam from across the world.

In the Topography of Algiers, Sosa meticulously describes the inhabitants' daily lives; their fashions, pastimes, feasts, and funerals; their government; the landmarks of the city itself; and much more. Readers will be struck by the vibrancy of his narrative, rendered into English with crisp accuracy by Diana de Armas Wilson. The Topography is a treasure trove of amazing customs, startling behavior, and historical anecdotes that will enthrall readers. The extensive introduction by Maria Antonia Garces is a superb archival study of the Mediterranean world described by the Topography, as well as an expose of the adventurous, even scandalous, life of its author. The introduction also discusses the fraudulent publication of Sosa's Topography under another man's name.

Sosa's chronicle stands out for its complexity, vitality, and the sharpness of the author's ethnographic vision. No other account of captivity in this period offers such a detailed and dynamic tableau of Algerian society at the end of the sixteenth century.

"Long overdue, this translation and edition of Sosa's Topografia is an absolute gem. Sixteenth-century Algiers was the Mediterranean's crossroads, a meeting point and melting-pot for Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Sosa's survey literally brings this important city to life. It is all there: architecture, economy, and religion, plus pirates, renegades, slaves, marriage customs, and more. There is no better source for understanding the human complexity of the early modern Mediterranean world, and both Diana de Armas Wilson—for the translation—and Maria Antonia Garces—for the introduction and notes—deserve credit for their masterful achievement." —Richard L. Kagan, Johns Hopkins University

"This is a truly significant text for all scholars of early modern Europe, worthy of their greatest interest and attention. An Early Modern Dialogue with Islam: Antonio de Sosa's Topography of Algiers (1612) marks a watershed in our understanding of the synergies of power and the nature of shifting identities along the borderlands of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe; this work stands as an example of interdisciplinary and cross-culture criticism at its best." —E. Michael Gerli, University of Virginia  

"Maria Antonia Garces, author of the classic Cervantes in Algiers: A Captive's Tale, crowns her scholarly achievements with a true masterpiece: An Early Modern Dialogue with Islam: Antonio de Sosa's Topography of Algiers (1612). Sosa's Topografia was formerly attributed to Diego de Haedo, but Professor Garces was able to solve the centuries-long mystery of the real authorship of the famous Topography, thanks to her patient research in European archives. Garces's stunning discovery, furthermore, sheds new light on the life of Cervantes, for Sosa was not only his fellow captive in Algiers, but also his first biographer. As the foremost scholar on Cervantes's relationship with Algiers and the Mediterranean, Garces has joined forces with Wilson, a superb translator of Spanish texts. —Luce Lopez-Baralt, University of Puerto Rico 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780268029784
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2011
  • Series: History Lang and Cult Spanish Portuguese Series
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 1,344,769
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Edited with an Introduction by Maria Antonia Garces, Professor of Hispanic Studies at Cornell University.

Translated by Diana de Armas Wilson, Professor Emerita of English at the University of Denver.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

Transliteration and Translation xiii

Note from the Translator xv

Acknowledgments xix

Introduction 1

Topography of Algiers Antonio de Sosa

Title Page from Diego de Haedo, Topographia, e Historia general de Argel 81

Preliminary Materials 83

Appraisal 83

The King 84

Approval by the Court's Designated Censor 86

Approval by the Superior of the Benedictine Order 87

License of the General of Saint Benedict 88

Dedicatory Letter 89

List of Errata 92

Chapter 1 The Founding of Algiers 93

Chapter 2 Why the City Is Called Algiers 99

Chapter 3 Algiers as a Muslim Kingdom 100

Chapter 4 How Algiers Came under the Turks 102

Chapter 5 The Ramparts of Algiers 104

Chapter 6 The Gates of Algiers 106

Chapter 7 The Fortifications of Algiers 109

Chapter 8 The Moat of Algiers 112

Chapter 9 The Castles and Forts outside Algiers 113

Chapter 10 The Houses and Streets of Algiers 117

Chapter 11 The Inhabitants and Neighbors of Algiers 119

Chapter 12 Turks 124

Chapter 13 Renegades 125

Chapter 14 Ka'ids 128

Chapter 15 Sipahi 131

Chapter 16 Janissaries 133

Chapter 17 Agha of the Janissaries 135

Chapter 18 Ranks of the Janissaries 137

Chapter 19 Customs of the Janissaries at War 141

Chapter 20 Customs of the Janissaries in Peacetime 146

Chapter 21 Customs of the Algerian Corsairs 151

Chapter 22 Catalogue of Corsairs 160

Chapter 23 Corsairs with Frigates 162

Chapter 24 Algerian Merchants 164

Chapter 25 Algerian Laborers and Artisans 168

Chapter 26 Algerian Fashions 169

Chapter 27 The Marabouts of Algiers 174

Chapter 28 The Jews of Algiers 181

Chapter 29 Languages and Currencies 184

Chapter 30 Marriage Ceremonies 188

Chapter 31 Childbirth and Child Rearing 194

Chapter 32 Algerian Women's Fashions 198

Chapter 33 Women's Pastimes, Home Decorating, and Cooking 203

Chapter 34 Islamic Feast Days and Festivals in Algiers 209

Chapter 35 A Miscellany of Muslim Customs in Algiers 216

Chapter 36 Algerian Vices 232

Chapter 37 Algerian Virtues 244

Chapter 38 Death and Burial in Algiers 247

Chapter 39 Algerian Buildings and Fountains 253

Chapter 40 The Natural Beauty of Algiers 261

Chapter 41 The Government of Algiers 265

List of Abbreviations 273

Glossary 274

Notes 287

Archival Sources 353

Bibliography 355

Index 381

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