Knowledge, Exchange, Encounter: Europe and the Ottoman Empire, 1453-1718

8 July 2013 - 9 July 2013

CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DT

Registration online via the link at the top right hand side of this page
Conference fee:
£50 (full); £25 (student)
Friday 5 July 2013


Simon Mills (CRASSH)
Scott Mandelbrote (Director of Studies and Perne Librarian, Peterhouse)
Kate Fleet
(Director of the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies, Newnham College)


Conference summary

The aim of this conference is to further our understanding of the ways in which knowledge was exchanged between Europe and the Ottoman Empire during the period from the conquest of Constantinople to the Treaty of Passarowitz. The conference, and the resulting collection of essays, will make an important contribution to the growing body of research concerned with the transfer of information between European and Ottoman societies in the early modern period which has emerged to challenge the long-held assumption that these societies developed along separate, and largely isolated, intellectual trajectories.    

One key objective of the conference is to cover a broad disciplinary field. The six panels will focus on different kinds of knowledge, broadly construed to cover both a number of fields of intellectual enquiry – botany, geography, and antiquarianism – and a number of practical disciplines: architecture, health, military technology, and economics. The conference will also engage substantially with questions concerning the mechanics of cross-cultural exchange: how, where, and by whom was theoretical knowledge and practical information conveyed between Europe and the Ottoman world? In order to answer these questions, the three panels on the second day will investigate broader concerns such as the ‘culture of collecting’ in its European and Ottoman contexts and the functioning of ‘knowledge networks’. Significant attention will also be devoted to the relations between intellectual exchange and the diplomatic, mercantile, and religious infrastructures which connected Europe and the Ottoman Empire during the period.

A second key objective is to ensure that both the Ottoman and the European sides of these questions are equally addressed. In order to work against the grain of long-established disciplinary boundaries, each panel will combine a specialist in Ottoman history with a specialist in European history. This will ensure that the presentations, and the planned publication, draw on a range of sources rarely accessible to an individual scholar. Participants will include a number of historians who have been at the forefront of developing new approaches to delineating the workings of cross-cultural exchange in the early modern period. This will be complemented by the work of well-established scholars in various fields of Ottoman and European history. The conference is jointly organised by Kate Fleet (Newton Trust Lecturer in Ottoman History and Director of the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies, Cambridge), Scott Mandelbrote (Director of Studies in History and Perne Librarian, Peterhouse College, Cambridge), and Simon Mills (Mellon/Newton Postdoctoral Research Fellow, CRASSH, Cambridge.


Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH),  University of Cambridge.


Accommodation for non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange accommodation, however, the following websites may be of help.

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms

University of Cambridge accommodation webpage

NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of accommodation.


Administrative assistance:



Location : SG1-2                       Date : 8-9 July 2013

Monday 8 July


8.45 -9.15


9.15 - 9.30

Welcome and Introduction

9.30 - 11.00

 Session 1: Architecture

  • Doris Behrens-Abouseif (SOAS, London): European impact on Ottoman architecture in Istanbul and the Arab provinces
  • Deborah Howard (University of Cambridge): Architectural encounters between Europe and the Ottoman Empire, 1453-1718, an overview

11.00 - 11.30

Coffee break

11.30 - 13.00

Session 2: Geography

  • Sonja Brentjes (MPIWG): How to understand and represent the world?
  • Gottfried Hagen (Michigan): Ptolemaeus triumphans: maps and the Ottoman state

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.30

Session 3: Health

  • Ebru Boyar (METU, Ankara): Knowledge and practice: European influences on the Ottoman concept of healthy living
  • Peregrine Horden (Royal Holloway, London): Ottoman hospitals - Islamic or Mediterranean?

15.30 - 16.00

Coffee break

16.00 - 17.30

Session 4: Military technology

  • Colin Imber (Manchester): The Ottoman Empire and the transfer of military technology to c1600
  • Carmelina Gugliuzzo (Messina): Mediterranean naval warfare in the early modern age: the Ottomans and the Western powers





Tuesday 9 July


9.00 - 10.30

Session 5: Practices of Collecting

  • Scott Mandelbrote (Cambridge): Collecting and deciphering evidence for the Bible and antiquity in the early modern Middle East
  • Feza Günergun (Istanbul): Travellers in the field: conveying botanical material from Ottoman Turkey to Western Europe (16th and 17th c.)

10.30 - 11.00

Coffee break

11.00 - 12.30

Session 6: Practices of Collecting (continued)

  • Simon Mills (Cambridge): European manuscript collectors in the Ottoman Empire
  • Kate Fleet (Cambridge): Exchange of economic knowledge and practice between the Ottoman empire and its western neighbours in the early modern era

12.30 - 13.30 


13.30 - 15.30 

Session 7: Networks of Exchange

  • Andrei Pippidi (Bucharest): Thomas Smith and two of his informers
  • John-Paul Ghobrial (Balliol College, Oxford): The Catholic Reformation in Arabic

15.30 - 16.00 

Coffee break

16.00 - 17.00