How European Views of the Ottomans Changed Essay

  • Length: 5 pages
  • Sources: 3
  • Subject: Culture
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #41679443

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For centuries during the Middle Ages, Europe had been at war with Moslems of the Middle East. There had been Crusades (beginning in the 11th century), wars for Holy Lands, and wars of great consequence (such as the Battle of Lepanto in 1571). Charles V had struggled to combat both the invading Moslems and the Protestant rebellion in his own kingdom in the first half of the 16th century, showing just how dramatic that conflict between the West and the Middle East was for many. Yet the tension that had existed dissipated to a great extent when the Ottoman Empire began to decline. Russia grew in power in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the West was rapidly modernizing. The Ottoman Empire itself was changing, and the new dynamic of life in the modern world played a significant role in the way that some Europeans saw and created images of the Ottomans that emphasized the positive, “exotic,” or less-threatening features of the Ottoman society. This paper will examine three articles by Smith, Jardine and de Busqec and identify the main reasons why these European eyes softened and grew more appreciative towards the Ottomans: specifically, the Protestant Rebellion and a new interest in the Ottoman culture.

The Protestant Rebellion

The Protestant Rebellion is the main reason that new images of the Ottomans ultimately emerged in Europe. The Reformation ushered in a new era in Europe. The West had up till that point been largely influenced and guided by the Roman Catholic Church. While nations and kings still fought and intrigued among one another, the Church was a pole star. When the Reformation unleashed a tidal wave of defiance among leaders throughout Europe against the Church and the Pope, dissension, civil war, revolution, and a new order all followed. One of the outcomes of the rise of Protestantism was a lessening of the influence of the Church in civil and economic affairs. As Lisa Jardine notes, when Elizabeth I of England was excommunicated from the Church, she was “freed” in a sense to pursue economic policies that she deemed beneficial to the English crown.[footnoteRef:1] In other words, she no longer had to worry about what the Church might say—not being a member of it, allowed her to dispense with this scruple. The result was that she opened up trade with the Ottomans, who had of course been the enemies of
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Christendom for year. [1: Lisa Jardine, “Gloriana Rules the Waves: Or, the Advantage of Being Excommunicated (and a Woman).” Transactions of the RHS, 14 (2004), 209.]

The outcome of this new trade policy, itself a result of the new religious environment pervading much of Europe, was that Europeans themselves began to adopt a much more benign view of the people who had for a long time been considered their foe. Diplomacy began to flourish (De Busqec was a Flemish diplomat for instance who acted as an Ambassador for heads of state in Europe). People in Europe began to see the Ottoman Empire as a reality—another nation with which it could be friendly. The Protestant Reformation had created a new European order: Elizabeth I and De Busqec were just two examples of this order. The fascination with the European public for “new things” and the exotic was another influential element that allowed the West to begin to see the Ottomans in a more positive image. Entertaining stories (like Don Quixote) brought humor, romance and excitement to the subject, and illustrations helped Europeans to visualize the people too. Protestantism, however, played an enormous role in the transformation of the relationship between Europe and the Near East, and the opening of trade helped create a new culture that was far more in tune with what these people had to offer in terms of goods and services.

De-Emphasizing the “Turks” as Militant by Reproducing Images of Their Culture

Another important reason why Europeans began to adopt a less threatening view of the Ottomans was that more publications were appearing that focused on the culture of the Ottomans—their dress, costume, customs, habits, courts, and daily lives. Europeans were fascinated by the Ottoman culture. They saw the Ottoman people as an enchanting people, whose exoticism could excite the Western reader, looking for fascinating and sensational material to help pass the time. Charlotte Colding Smith observes that in Germany, a view of the Turks was emerging that was more sympathetic than ever before largely in part because the German state itself was in a period of transition: politics had changed, religion had changed, and society had changed (thanks to technological advancements). Germany was a state that had been divided by the Protestant Rebellion, with strong presences of both Protestant and Catholic cultures present and asserting themselves in the 16th century. Into this climate came a new attitude with regard to the…

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