Visions of the Ottoman World in Renaissance Europe

January 2013 9781849041997 256pp


How the great minds of the West formed an image of the Ottoman Empire and of Eastern Europe in the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, and the intellectual foundations of this construction, are the principal themes of Pippidi’s pathbreaking book.

Key protagonists in these debates included Erasmus, Luther and Machiavelli. Today we might call them intellectuals, yet mostly they did not travel, and direct contact with the Ottoman Empire was scarce or nonexistent. Nor were they well disposed to its predecessor, the Byzantine Empire, whose fall presented them with an intellectual conundrum: how were they to explain the irresistible advance of the Ottomans across the Balkans and the inability of Christian Europe to hold the line? They also felt compelled to incorporate this significant new threat into their vision of a world order, to rationalise it, to unravel its origins. These discussions spawned a common market of ideas in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, as Europeans debated and represented the Ottoman threat. Readers of this book will find many echoes in Pippidi’s analysis of today’s debates about the relationship of Turkey with Europe and the struggle to accommodate the descendants of the Ottomans in our midst.


Visions of the Ottoman World in Renaissance Europe is disarmingly free of complexity … should find admirers among academics and non-specialists alike.’ — Caroline Finkel, History Today

‘[T]he book makes a convincing case that the European perception of the Ottomans is not static… a beneficial read for both European and Ottoman studies [that] may help to establish a more integrated historical approach.’ — Insight Turkey

‘This one of the most fascinating scholarly works that I have ever read. The author’s cultural knowledge is enormous, based on research into sixteenth- and seventeenth-century manuscript manuscripts as well as sources in ten languages. Pippidi provides a broad and clear analysis of how ‘Europe’ saw, and was affected by, the long-enduring Ottoman empire.’ — Professor Stevan Pavlowitch, author, A History of the Balkans

‘This is a fascinating book on a vital area of our cultural history, written by one of the most distinguished historians of south-eastern Europe. Andrei Pippidi writes with elegance and grace, but his account rests on a formidable foundation of scholarly research. A work not only to intrigue and enlighten general readers, but also to stimulate fellow scholars, who will find themselves taking many notes.’ — Noel Malcolm, Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford

‘Andrei Pippidi is a Romanian historian with an extraordinary knowledge of [books about the Ottoman Empire] … as a guide to a wonderful set of books on a wonderful subject, Visions of the Ottoman World in Renaissance Europe is also wonderful.’ — Cornucopia

‘Pippidi’s work is a scholarly feat, for he draws upon manuscript and printed sources from as many as ten European languages. … He has tracked down almost everything there is to know about the European (mis)perception of the Turks in the Renaissance period. His book no doubt stands out as a solid contribution to cultural history and the history of ideas. More importantly, it helps readers fathom the deep-rooted European distrust of Islam down the ages.’ — Abdur Raheem Kidwai, Aligarh Muslim University


Andrei Pippidi is Emeritus Chair of Medieval History at the University of Bucharest, Romania.

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