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Venice and Istanbul, 1453-1797


Module description

This option module adopts a comparative approach to the study of the early modern Mediterranean. It takes as its basis for comparison two of the great cities of the region, Venice and Istanbul, capitals of two of the most lastingly influential states in this period: the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire. Through viewpoints built around the experiences of these cities and empires, we will examine the broad themes of intercultural encounter, exchange and competition in the Mediterranean in the era from the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople to the fall of the Venetian republic. We will discuss trade and diplomacy, urban life and the treatment of minorities, diplomacy and war.

While we will focus primarily upon Venice and Istanbul, and the empires that they controlled, we will also look at selected imperial frontier territories (such as Crete, Cyprus and the Morea) that passed from the control of one empire to the other to gain different insights into the ways in which encounter, exchange and competition could affect local populations in the eastern Mediterranean.

Indicative module content

  • Introduction: Mediterranean crossroads
  • Cities: urban space
  • Cities: multicultural societies
  • Cities: imperial capitals
  • Exchange: commercial
  • Exchange: intellectual and cultural
  • Exchange: people (converts, slaves, interpreters, Levantines, corsairs)
  • Competition: religious
  • Competition: territorial (Morea, Dalmatia, Cyprus, Crete)
  • Competition: warfare and diplomacy

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • be familiar with the principal trajectories of Mediterranean history and the histories of the Venetian and Ottoman empires
  • be familiar with the urban history of Venice and Istanbul as imperial capitals, as cross-cultural hubs, as cultural centres
  • understand change and continuity in the history of the relations between the two empires
  • understand the different styles of government and political systems in the two capitals
  • understand the range of sources, both written and material, which are available for the study of Venetian-Ottoman relations
  • be able to situate early modern Ottoman-Venetian relations within wider debates about the history of transnational relations
  • be able to demonstrate bibliographical competence
  • be able to discuss in an informed manner current academic debates about early modern Venice and Istanbul, in both small and large group discussions, including evaluating evidence and interpretation.