> Skip to content
  • Published: 18 April 2017
  • ISBN: 9780241004036
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook

This Orient Isle

Elizabethan England And The Islamic World




A richly detailed account of the little-known cultural and political relationship between Elizabethan England and the Islamic world.

In 1570, after numerous plots and assassination attempts against her, Elizabeth I of England was excommunicated by the Pope. It was the beginning of cultural, economic and political exchanges with the Islamic world of a depth not again experienced until the modern age. England signed treaties with the Ottoman Porte, received ambassadors from the kings of Morocco and shipped munitions to Marrakech in the hope of establishing an accord which would keep the common enemy of Catholic Spain at bay.
This awareness of the Islamic world found its way into many of the great English cultural productions of the day - especially, of course, Shakespeare's Othello and The Merchant of Venice. Less well known is that in 1599 Thomas Dallam, who made the organ for King's College in Cambridge, was sent to Istanbul to play in front of Sultan Mehmed.
This Orient Isle shows that England's relations with the Muslim world were far more extensive, and often more amicable, than we have ever appreciated, and that their influence was felt across the political, commercial and domestic landscape of Elizabethan England. Jerry Brotton, one of the UK's leading experts on cultural exchange, gives this neglected history the fullest study it has ever received.
%%%In 1570, when it became clear she would never be gathered into the Catholic fold, Elizabeth I was excommunicated by the Pope. On the principle that 'my enemy's enemy is my friend', this marked the beginning of an English alignment with the Muslim powers who were fighting Catholic Spain in the Mediterranean, and of cultural, economic and political exchanges with the Islamic world of a depth not again experienced until the modern age. England signed treaties with the Ottoman Porte, received ambassadors from the kings of Morocco and shipped munitions to Marrakesh. By the late 1580s hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Elizabethan merchants, diplomats, sailors, artisans and privateers were plying their trade from Morocco to Persia.
The awareness of Islam which these Englishmen brought home found its way into many of the great English cultural productions of the day, including most famously Marlowe's Tamburlaine, and Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, The Merchant of Venice and Othello. Less well known are the despatch in 1599 of Thomas Dallam, a Lancastrian blacksmith, to the Ottoman capital to play his clockwork organ in front of Sultan Mehmed and the expedition of the adventurer Sir Anthony Sherley to the court of the Persian Shah Abbas the Great. The following year the Moroccan ambassador, Abd al-Wahid bin Mohammed al-Annuri, spent six months in London with his entourage. Shakespeare wrote Othello six months later.
This Orient Isle shows that England's relations with the Muslim world were far more extensive, and often more amicable, than we have appreciated, and that their influence was felt across the political, commercial and domestic landscape of Elizabethan England. It is a startlingly unfamiliar picture of part of our national and international history.
%%%In 1570, when it became clear she would never be gathered into the Catholic fold, Elizabeth I was excommunicated by the Pope. On the principle that 'my enemy's enemy is my friend', this marked the beginning of an extraordinary English alignment with the Muslim powers who were fighting Catholic Spain in the Mediterranean, and of cultural, economic and political exchanges with the Islamic world of a depth not again experienced until the modern age. England signed treaties with the Ottoman Porte, received ambassadors from the kings of Morocco and shipped munitions to Marrakesh. By the late 1580s hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Elizabethan merchants, diplomats, sailors, artisans and privateers were plying their trade from Morocco to Persia.
These included the resourceful mercer Anthony Jenkinson who met both Süleyman the Magnificent and the Persian Shah

  • Published: 18 April 2017
  • ISBN: 9780241004036
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook

Also by Jerry Brotton

See all

Praise for This Orient Isle

Jerry Brotton's sparkling new book sets out just how extensive and complex England's relationship with the Arab and Muslim world once was, and tentatively connects the threads of that engagement to

Related titles