Muslim Missions to Early Modern France, c.1610-c.1780: Notes for a Social History of Cross-Cultural Diplomacy

in Journal of Early Modern History
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This essay challenges traditional views on cross-cultural diplomacy by making the case for a social history of “Muslim” missions to early modern France. Calling for both a deeper understanding of the historical phenomenon and a broad reassessment of the research strategies at stake, it points to some hitherto unexplored issues, such as the lengthy duration of these missions, the many social interactions between Muslim envoys and French people, and the rather unspectacular nature of the “Oriental” presence even in inland regions of Europe distant from royal courts and capital cities. The essay stresses the necessity of taking a longer view of the presence and reception of foreign envoys, while also arguing against traditional court-centric perspectives in order to challenge the monolithic picture of cross-cultural exchanges as happening between two discrete cultural entities. Finally, advocating for a more fluid approach to these contacts and relations, it calls for a better understanding of the role of French royal interpreters in articulating figures and motifs of otherness.

Muslim Missions to Early Modern France, c.1610-c.1780: Notes for a Social History of Cross-Cultural Diplomacy

in Journal of Early Modern History




Rousseau to Madame de Luze 25 September 1762in Correspondance complète de Jean-Jacques Rousseauxiii ed. Ralph A. Leigh (Geneva 1969) 111.


See for instance Yolande Crowe“Le manteau arménien de J.-J. Rousseau,” in Between Paris and Fresno: Armenian Studies in Honor of Dickran Kouymjianed. Barlow Der Mugrdechian (Costa Mesa 2008) 155-176.


Jean de La Fontaine“Le Salamalec lyonnais, conte,” in Contes et nouvelles en vers iii (Amsterdam 1762) 261-264. La Fontaine’s authorship of many of these (mostly erotic or licentious) stories remains highly dubious and the tale itself can be found in the collected works of a host of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century minor French authors such as Gilles Ménage (1613-1692) Bernard de La Monnoye (1641-1728) Jean-Baptiste Rousseau (1670-1741) Jean-Baptiste Willart de Grécourt (1684-1743) and Alexis Piron (1689-1773).


Jocelyne Dakhlia“Musulmans en France et en Grande-Bretagne à l’époque moderne: exemplaires et invisibles,” in Les musulmans dans l’histoire de l’Europevol. iUne intégration invisible ed. Jocelyne Dakhlia and Bernard Vincent (Paris 2011) 231-413.


Susan Mokhberi“Finding Common Ground Between Europe and Asia: Understanding and Conflict During the Persian Embassy to France in 1715,” Journal of Early Modern History 16 (2012): 53-80.


Christian Windler“Diplomatic History as a Field for Cultural Analysis: Muslim-Christian Relations in Tunis, 1700-1840,” The Historical Journal 44 no. 1 (2001): 79-106.


Berrak Burçak“The Institution of the Ottoman Embassy and Eighteenth-Century Ottoman History: An Alternative to Göçek,” in Identity and Identity Formation in the Ottoman Worlded. Baki Tezcan and Karl K. Barbir (Madison 2007) 147-151.


MatarIn the Lands197-214.


Guy Le Thiec“L’Œil des Infidèles: Marana et la fiction de l’espion ottoman,” in Ambassadeurs apprentis espions et maîtres comploteurs: Les systèmes de renseignement en Espagne à l’époque moderneed. Béatrice Perez (Paris 2010) 417-35.


FiennesUne mission15-6.


Mokhberi“Finding Common Ground” 58-59.


See for instance Donald Queller“Early Venetian Legislation Concerning Foreign Ambassadors,” Studies in the Renaissance 12 (1965): 7-17.


Rousset de MissyLe Cérémonial diplomatique102-103.


LandweberFrench Delight in Turkey21-61.




MatarIn the Lands197.


Hossain“The Employment and Training” 239-40.


For instance in 1777following the visit ambassador Suleiman Aga a bonus of 1.200 pounds was given to all three of Louis xvi’s “secretaries-interpreters of Oriental languages” with one of them (Ruffin) being awarded another 1.200 for his direct involvement in Suleiman Aga’s service. See an ae b iii 13 Décisions du Roy . . .  1777 f° 141.


Hossain“The Employment and Training” 236-8.


RuffinJournal62. Ruffin had a similarly frustrating experience some years earlier while serving the Tripolitan envoy Sidi Adraman Bediri Aga; see an ae b iii 11 Décisions du Roy . . .  1775 n° 16bis.


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