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"A Mirror to Turke": "Turks" and the Making of Early Modern England


This study examines how relations with – and discourses of – the “Turk” within England shaped the contours of critical political and religious debates from the Elizabethan era to the Exclusion Crisis. Utilizing sources such as sermons, plays, ballads, libels, newsbooks, pamphlets, histories, and correspondence, I consider particular moments at which this engagement assumed critical importance for public opinion and policy, analyzing Queen Elizabeth I’s justification for a potential league with the Ottoman Turks in the late 1580s and early 1590s, the English West Country’s experience with “Turkish” pirates in the 1620s, the Muslim “Turkish” converts who became the providential instruments by which different groups affirmed divine favor for their religio-political visions in the late 1650s, and the role of the “Turk” in political and religious polarization during the Exclusion Crisis and the subsequent Tory reaction. I deploy the metaphor of the mirror to explore the process by which Englishmen and women held a mirror up to their own policies, practices, and values through invoking the “Turk” and thereby charted a way forward for the nation at moments of perceived crisis and change. I argue that perceptions of the Muslim “Turk” helped to define an evolving Anglo-Protestant character through providing contemporaries with a rich conceptual field with which they could interrogate and debate issues such as national responsibility, liberty, religious unity, and political governance. As visions of what constituted this character remained contested throughout this period, contemporaries deployed particular cultural assumptions of the “Turk” both to legitimize their own political and religious visions and deny their opponents’ claims to represent the interests of the nation. This dissertation thus addresses how manipulating conceptualizations of the “Turks” allowed contemporaries to navigate and address religio-political tensions, how certain individuals and groups were able to set the terms of pivotal debates through invoking the “Turks,” and how the Anglo-Protestant nation was continually reimagined amidst this process.
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2015)

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Perille, Laura Ann, "'A Mirror to Turke': 'Turks' and the Making of Early Modern England" (2015). History Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.