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Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery / Edition 1

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Overview

During the early modern period, hundreds of Turks and Moors traded in English and Welsh ports, dazzled English society with exotic cuisine and Arabian horses, and worked small jobs in London, while the "Barbary Corsairs" raided coastal towns and, if captured, lingered in Plymouth jails or stood trial in Southampton courtrooms. In turn, Britons fought in Muslim armies, traded and settled in Moroccan or Tunisian harbor towns, joined the international community of pirates in Mediterranean and Atlantic outposts, served in Algerian households and ships, and endured captivity from Salee to Alexandria and from Fez to Mocha.

In Turks, Moors, and Englishmen, Nabil Matar vividly presents new data about Anglo-Islamic social and historical interactions. Rather than looking exclusively at literary works, which tended to present unidimensional stereotypes of Muslims -- Shakespeare's "superstitious Moor" or Goffe's "raging Turke," to name only two -- Matar delves into hitherto unexamined English prison depositions, captives' memoirs, government documents, and Arabic chronicles and histories. The result is a significant alternative to the prevailing discourse on Islam, which nearly always centers around ethnocentrism and attempts at dominance over the non-Western world, and an astonishing revelation about the realities of exchange and familiarity between England and Muslim society in the Elizabethan and early Stuart periods.

Concurrent with England's engagement and "discovery" of the Muslims was the "discovery" of the American Indians. In an original analysis, Matar shows how Hakluyt and Purchas taught their readers not only about America but about the Muslim dominions, too; how there were more reasons for Britons to venture eastward than westward; and how, in the period under study, more Englishmen lived in North Africa than in North America. Although Matar notes the sharp political and colonial differences between the English encounter with the Muslims and their encounter with the Indians, he shows how Elizabethan and Stuart writers articulated Muslim in terms of Indian, and Indian in terms of Muslim. By superimposing the sexual constructions of the Indians onto the Muslims, and by applying to them the ideology of holy war which had legitimated the destruction of the Indians, English writers prepared the groundwork for orientalism and for the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century conquest of Mediterranean Islam.

Matar's detailed research provides a new direction in the study of England's geographic imagination. It also illuminates the subtleties and interchangeability of stereotype, racism, and demonization that must be taken into account in any responsible depiction of English history.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Sixteenth-Century Journal
An important but neglected topic. Matar has done early modern scholarship an important service.
New York Review of Books - William Dalrymple

Matar's work is full of surprises for anyone who believes that Christian-Muslim relations have always been confrontational.

Arab Studies Journal

A valuable contribution to the study of the rise of Orientalism and colonialism... perceptive and elegantly written.

Sixteenth Century Journal

An important but neglected topic. Matar has done early modern scholarship an important service.

The Muslim World Book Review

Worth [its] weight in gold.... Matar's work adds to the discourse of both orientalism and post-colonialism by providing essential detailed historical analysis of primary sources.... Extremely informative and enlightening.

New York Review of Books
Matar's work is full of surprises for anyone who believes that Christian-Muslim relations have always been confrontational.

— William Dalrymple

Michael Neill
An exceptionally detailed account of the elaborate network of commercial, diplomatic, military contacts between Britons and Muslims in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Matar taps a rich vein of anecdotal material to make this history vivid and particular. This book will become required reading for anyone interested in the origins of empire, and in the associated discourses of commerce, colonisation, and race.
Sixteenth Century Journal
An important but neglected topic. Matar has done early modern scholarship an important service.
Muslim World Book Review
Worth [its] weight in gold. . . . Matar´s work adds to the discourse of both orientalism and post-colonialism by providing essential detailed historical analysis of primary sources. . . . Extremely informative and enlightening.
Library Journal
Matar English, Florida Inst. of Technology has written an interesting study of cultural contact between the English and the Moors and Turks of the 16th and 17th centuries and how this contact influenced subsequent English interactions with native peoples of the New World. Under Queen Elizabeth, the English forged a series of commercial and political understandings with the Islamic rulers of North Africa. Thousands of Englishmen served in the armies and navies of North Africa, and a high percentage of the infamous Barbary pirates were actually Englishmen operating in the service of or in alliance with local rulers. English views on the Moors and Turks and their "evil" customs were later transferred to the Native Americans. While North Africa attracted craftsmen and soldiers, the Americas were considered a fit dumping ground for England's vagrants and criminals. Matar's book will appeal to readers with an interest in European and Muslim interaction. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.--Robert James Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Matar English, Florida Institute of Technology studies diverse primary sources to present a picture of relations between English and Muslim societies in the early modern period. He also analyzes how English perceptions of Muslims were transferred onto Native Americans and vice versa, forming a triangular relationship in the evolving English colonialist mentality. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231110150
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 10/25/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Nabil Matar is a professor of English and the department head at the Florida Institute of Technology. He is the author of Islam for Beginners, Peter Sterry: Select Writings, and Islam in Britain: 1558-1685.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

1. Turks and Moors in England2. Soldiers Pirates, Traders, and Captives: Britons Among the Muslims3. The Renaissance Triangle: Britons Muslims, and American Indians4. Sodomy and Conquest5. Holy Land, Holy WarConclusion: Britons, Muslims, and the Shadow of the America IndiansAppendixesNotesBibliographyIndex

Columbia University Press

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