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Finding Common Ground Between Europe and Asia: Understanding and Conflict During the Persian Embassy to France in 1715

In: Journal of Early Modern History
Author: Susan Mokhberi1
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  • 1 University of California, Los Angeles
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Abstract

In 1715, Louis XIV received Mohammad Reza Beg, an ambassador from distant Persia in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. The aging monarch greeted the ambassador in a suit encrusted with diamonds, a costume worthy of an Oriental potentate. The Beg and his entourage were no less splendid and the similarity between the Frenchmen and the Persian must have struck some viewers. King and ambassador played roles in a common drama—the ambassadorial visit—and they had more in common than one might expect. Thanks to the memoirs in manuscript of the introducteur des ambassadeurs, Baron de Breteuil, we know that the French worked hard to cooperate with the Beg despite cultural differences. After all, Breteuil and the Beg shared the goal of projecting the grandeur of their respective monarchies. This common ambition resulted in clashes of precedence between the French and Persian representatives, similar to those that occurred between European powers. This article suggests that “Orientalism” and cultural conflict did not necessarily shape the French response to the Persians. Rather, common diplomatic interests that transcended cultural differences underlay the encounter between West and East.

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