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.
Jean de La Fontaine“Le Salamalec lyonnais, conte,” in Contes et nouvelles en versiii (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.
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.
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.
For instance in1777following 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.