God's Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World

God's Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World

by Alan Mikhail
God's Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World

God's Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World

by Alan Mikhail


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Best Books of the Year • Times Literary Supplement, Publishers Weekly, History Today
Longlisted • Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction
Editors' Choice • New York Times Book Review

“A stunning work of global history. . . . Alan Mikhail offers a bold and thoroughly convincing new way to think about the origins of the modern world. . . . A tour de force.” —Greg Grandin

Long neglected in world history, the Ottoman Empire was a hub of intellectual fervor, geopolitical power, and enlightened pluralistic rule. At the height of their authority in the sixteenth century, the Ottomans, with extraordinary military dominance and unparalleled monopolies over trade routes, controlled more territory and ruled over more people than any world power, forcing Europeans out of the Mediterranean and to the New World.

Yet, despite its towering influence and centrality to the rise of our modern world, the Ottoman Empire’s history has for centuries been distorted, misrepresented, and even suppressed in the West. Now Alan Mikhail presents a vitally needed recasting of Ottoman history, retelling the story of the Ottoman conquest of the world through the dramatic biography of Sultan Selim I (1470–1520).

Born to a concubine, and the fourth of his sultan father’s ten sons, Selim was never meant to inherit the throne. With personal charisma and military prowess—as well as the guidance of his remarkably gifted mother, Gülbahar—Selim claimed power over the empire in 1512 and, through ruthless ambition, nearly tripled the territory under Ottoman control, building a governing structure that lasted into the twentieth century. At the same time, Selim—known by his subjects as “God’s Shadow on Earth”—fostered religious diversity, welcoming Jews among other minority populations into the empire; encouraged learning and philosophy; and penned his own verse.

Drawing on previously unexamined sources from multiple languages, and with original maps and stunning illustrations, Mikhail’s game-changing account “challenges readers to recalibrate their sense of history” (Leslie Peirce), adroitly using Selim’s life to upend prevailing shibboleths about Islamic history and jingoistic “rise of the West” theories that have held sway for decades. Whether recasting Christopher Columbus’s voyages to the “Americas” as a bumbling attempt to slay Muslims or showing how the Ottomans allowed slaves to become the elite of society while Christian states at the very same time waged the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade, God’s Shadow radically reshapes our understanding of the importance of Selim’s Ottoman Empire in the history of the modern world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631492396
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 08/18/2020
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 1,117,968
Product dimensions: 9.30(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

A leading historian of his generation, Alan Mikhail, professor of history and chair of the Department of History at Yale University, has reforged our understandings of the past through his prize-winning books on the history of the Middle East.

Table of Contents

List of Maps xi

Introduction 1

Part 1 Prince (1470-87)

1 Perfume of the World 15

2 Empire Boys 31

3 An Ottoman Abroad 43

Part 2 Governor (1487-1500)

4 Learning the Family Business 63

5 Power at the Edge 77

Part 3 The Ottoman (1492)

6 Columbus and Islam 89

7 Columbus's Crusade 103

8 New World Islam 123

9 Christian Jihad 136

10 The Taino-Muslims of Hispaniola 148

11 Finding Ottoman Jerusalem 165

Part 4 Enemies Near and Far (1500-12)

12 Heresy from the East 185

13 Enemies Everywhere 197

14 Summer in Crimea 210

15 Bound for Istanbul 224

16 One and Only Sultan 235

Part 5 Selim's World Wars (1512-18)

17 "Their Abode Is Hell" 249

18 Fraternal Empires 270

19 Conquering the Navel 283

20 Conquering the World 303

Part 6 Final Frontiers (1518-20)

21 Empire Everywhere 323

22 Fulcrum of the Atlantic 335

23 Eternity 354

Part 7 Descendants (After 1520)

24 Selim's Reformations 369

25 American Selim 385

Coda: Shadows Over Turkey 399

Acknowledgments 407

Chronology: Selim and his World 411

Notes 417

Illustration credits 457

Index 461

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