Before they had an empire in the East, the British travelled into the Islamic world to pursue trade and to form strategic alliances against the Catholic powers of France and Spain. First-hand encounters with Muslims, Jews, Greek Orthodox, and other religious communities living together under tolerant Islamic rule changed forever the way Britons thought about Islam, just as the goods they imported from Islamic countries changed forever the way they lived. Britain
and the Islamic World tells the story of how, for a century and a half, merchants and diplomats travelled from Morocco to Istanbul, from Aleppo to Isfahan, and from Hormuz to Surat, and discovered a world that was more fascinating than fearful.
Gerald MacLean and Nabil Matar examine the place of Islam and Muslims in English thought, and how British monarchs dealt with supremely powerful Muslim rulers. They document the importance of diplomatic and mercantile encounters, show how the writings of captives spread unreliable information about Islam and Muslims, and investigate observations by travellers and clergymen who reported meetings with Jews, eastern Christians, Armenians, and Shi'ites. They also trace how trade and the exchange of
material goods with the Islamic world shaped how people in Britain lived their lives and thought about themselves.
Since 1993 Gerald MacLean has worked on the nature and range of East-West encounters and authored two books on Anglo-Ottoman relations during the early modern period, both of which have appeared in Turkish translation. He is a founding member of The Evliya Celebi Way Project, an international group of scholars and equestrians who travelled across western Anatolia on horseback in the autumn of 2009 following the route of the great Ottoman travel writer and historian. This project of historical re-enactment has been supported by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and has established a sustainable trekking route between Istanbul and Kutahya. In the spring of 2011 he and the team will follow Evliya's route on horseback from Gaziantep to Aleppo and back to Sanliurfa to establish a second sustainable trekking route within the frame of the Turkish-Syrian Interregional Cooperation Programme. Nabil Matar completed his B.A. and M.A. at the American University of Beirut, and his Ph.D. at Cambridge University. He taught at Jordan University and the American University of Beirut, and received postdoctoral grants from the British Council (Clare Hall, Cambridge University) and from Fulbright (Harvard Divinity School). In 1986, Dr. Matar moved to the United States and started teaching in the Humanities Department at Florida Institute of Technology. In 1997, he became the Department Head and served until 2007 when he moved to the English Department at the University of Minnesota. He is Presidential Professor in the President's Interdisciplinary Initiative on Arts and Humanities and teaches in the departments of English and History, and in the Religious Studies Program. Dr. Matar's research in the past two decades has focused on relations between early modern Britain, Western Europe, and the Islamic Mediterranean. He is co-executive editor of the Journal of Early Modern History (Brill).
Introduction ; 1. Islam and Muslims in English Thought ; 2. First Diplomatic Exchanges ; 3. British Factors, Governors, and Diplomats ; 4. Captives ; 5. The Peoples of the Islamic Empires ; 6. Material Culture ; 7. Conclusion