"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

You Traitorous Bastard!

As we continue to learn more about the encounter--ancient, medieval, and modern--between Christianity (both Eastern and Western) and Islam, we realize that the history is far more complicated than partisans, polemicists, or politicians would have us believe. What to make, e.g., of the Crimean War, which pitted two Christian powers against another Christian power and on the side of the Islamic Ottoman Empire--France and Britain with the Ottomans and against the Orthodox Russian Empire? 

A recent book looks at another unexpected alliance between an ostensibly Christian power and an ostensibly Islamic one, revealing, if nothing else, that--as the psalmist put it--you should put not your trust in princes: Christine Isom-Verhaaren, Allies with the Infidel: The Ottoman and French Alliance in the Sixteenth Century (Tauris Academic, 2011), 304pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In 1543, the Ottoman fleet appeared off the coast of France to bombard and lay siege to the city of Nice. The operation, under the command of Admiral Barbarossa, came in response to a request from François I of France for assistance from Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent in France’s struggle against Charles V, the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain. This military alliance between mutual "infidels," the Christian French King and the Muslim Sultan, aroused intense condemnation on religious grounds from the Habsburgs and their supporters as an aberration from accepted diplomacy. Memories of the Crusades were, after all, still very much alive in Europe and an alliance with "the Turk" seemed unthinkable to many. Allies with the Infidel places the events of 1543 and the subsequent wintering of the Ottoman fleet in Toulon in the context of the power politics of the sixteenth century. Relying on contemporary Ottoman and French sources, it presents the realpolitik of diplomacy with "infidels" in the early modern era. The result is essential reading for students and scholars of European history, Ottoman Studies, and of relations between the Christian and Islamic worlds.

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