Ottoman Empire

European Christians who converted to Islam in the Ottoman Empire were vilified as traitors who had defected to the arch-enemy. But there is a big difference between official propaganda and the lived experiences of these ‘renegades’.

Faced with a vast, decaying empire, the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II ruled with an iron fist, curtailing press freedom, promoting Islam and severing ties with the West. His similarities with Turkey’s current president have not gone unnoticed.

During a period of European peace, Spain sought to establish control of the Mediterranean. Yet a disastrous attempt to oust the Ottomans from North Africa threatened to accelerate the westward advance of Islam. 

Over the last 30 years, western ideas about the Ottoman Empire have been transformed, just as Turkish attitudes towards the West have become increasingly negative, writes Erik Zurcher.

Lansing Collins describes how, in honour of a previous gift sent in the other direction, Elizabeth I presented Sultan Mohammed III with an elaborate clock, surmounted by singing birds that shook their wings.

The arrival in 1833 of a Russian fleet signalled Russian control for several years of the Bosporus and of the Turkish Empire, writes Lansing Collins.

Anthony Bryer takes a visit to Nicaea; The seat of early Church Councils and, for a while, of the Byzantine Emperors, it has a history stretching from the reign of Alexander the Great to the present day.

Anne Kindersley describes ‘a triumph of Good over Evil’; for Serbs it was a physical defeat against the Ottoman Turks, but a moral victory.

Sarah Searight describes how the Levant Company, which had received its first charter from Elizabeth I, did not surrender its monopolistic hold over trade with the Middle East until the reign of George IV.

In the year of Napoleon’s coronation, writes Ann Kindersley, three patriotic Serbs officially asked for the help of the Tsar in their revolt against the Turks.