Mediating Boundaries: Mediterranean Go-Betweens and Cross-Confessional Diplomacy in Constantinople, 1560-1600

in Journal of Early Modern History
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By drawing on documents from European archives, this article addresses everyday aspects of diplomacy in sixteenth-century Constantinople. It focuses on how various go-betweens mediated political, cultural, religious, and linguistic boundaries in the encounters between Ottoman grandees and European diplomats. By doing so, it shifts the focus from the office of the ambassador to a large number of informal diplomatic actors (Jewish brokers, dragomans, renegades, go-betweens, etc.) with different areas of competence, functioning in diverse networks of contact and exchange. Moreover, it accentuates the importance of Constantinople as a space of encounter between diverse ethnic and religious communities as well as a Mediterranean-wide center of diplomacy and espionage. The essay calls for a reevaluation of Eurocentric views that associate the birth and development of modern diplomacy only with Christian Europe and revises the historiography on Ottoman diplomacy by concentrating on vernacular diplomacy rather than the rigid theoretical framework drawn by the Islamic Law.

Mediating Boundaries: Mediterranean Go-Betweens and Cross-Confessional Diplomacy in Constantinople, 1560-1600

in Journal of Early Modern History




John Watkins“Toward a New Diplomatic History of Medieval and Early Modern Europe,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Europe 38 no. 1 (2012): 1-14. Also see other articles in this special issue.


See Eric Dursteler“Latin Rite Christians in Early Modern Istanbul,” in Osmanli Istanbulu I: I. Uluslararası Osmanlı İstanbulu Sempozyumu Bildirileri 29 Mayıs–1 Haziran 2013ed. Feridun Emecen and Emrah Safa Gürkan (Istanbul 2014) 137-146.


See Gürkan“Espionage in the 16th-century Mediterranean” 377-384.


PedaniIn nome del Gran Signore25-6. Even though he arrived in Venice with Sokollu’s letters and not those of the sultan the Venetians immediately treated him as an official envoy (p. 166). Also see. asvSDelC reg. 4 cc. 52v 56v 59v 80v-81v 84 85 88 116.


Fodor“An Antisemite Grand Vizier?” 197; Sahillioğlu Koca Sinan Paşa no. 8.


Tijana Krstić“Illuminated by the Light of Islam and the Glory of the Ottoman Sultanate: Self-Narratives of Conversion to Islam in the Age of Confessionalization,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 51 no. 1 (2009): 35-63; here 44-45; Rothman Brokering Empire Chapter 3.


Gauri Viswanathan“Coping with (Civil) Death: the Christian Convert’s Rights of Passage in Colonial India,” in After Colonialism: Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacementsed. Gyan Prakash (Princeton 1995): 183-210; Tobias Graf “Of Half-Lives and Double-Lives: ‘Renegades’ in the Ottoman Empire and Their Pre-Conversion Ties ca. 1580-1610” in Well-Connected Domains: Towards an Entangled Ottoman History ed. Pascal W. Firges et al. (Leiden 2014) 131-149; here 131-2.


Kunt“Ethnic-Regional” 236.


Maria Pia Pedani“Safiye’s Household and Venetian Diplomacy,” Turcica 32 (2000): 9-31here 11.


DurstelerRenegade Women22-23.


Daniela Frigo“Introduction,” in Politics and Diplomacy in Early Modern Italy: The Structure of Diplomatic Practice 1450-1800ed. Daniela Frigo trans. Adrian Belton (Cambridge 2000) 1-24 here 5-6.


Abou-El-Haj“Ottoman Diplomacy at Karlowitz” 498. For instance Abou el-Haj states that the Ottomans “in the absence of necessity [ . . . ] had developed neither the formal apparatus for diplomatic communication nor the corps of trained personnel requisite for the negotiation of peace.” (p. 498-499). Although it was written decades ago this article still preserves its relevance today (see fn. 3). More recently Jeremy Black argued that the Ottoman Empire required diplomacy rather less than Tudor England Valois France or Sforza Milan. According to this the strong Ottomans did not particularly need allies. Jeremy Black A History of Diplomacy (London 2010) 53-54.

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