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Brokering Empire: Trans-Imperial Subjects between Venice and Istanbul (Paperback)
  • Brokering Empire: Trans-Imperial Subjects between Venice and Istanbul (Paperback)
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Brokering Empire: Trans-Imperial Subjects between Venice and Istanbul (Paperback)

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Paperback 352 Pages / Published: 02/10/2014
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In Brokering Empire, E. Natalie Rothman explores the intersecting worlds of those who regularly traversed the early modern Venetian-Ottoman frontier, including colonial migrants, redeemed slaves, merchants, commercial brokers, religious converts, and diplomatic interpreters. In their sustained interactions across linguistic, religious, and political lines these trans-imperial subjects helped to shape shifting imperial and cultural boundaries, including the emerging distinction between Europe and the Levant.Rothman argues that the period from 1570 to 1670 witnessed a gradual transformation in how Ottoman difference was conceived within Venetian institutions. Thanks in part to the activities of trans-imperial subjects, an early emphasis on juridical and commercial criteria gave way to conceptions of difference based on religion and language. Rothman begins her story in Venice's bustling marketplaces, where commercial brokers often defied the state's efforts both to tax foreign merchants and define Venetian citizenship. The story continues in a Venetian charitable institution where converts from Islam and Judaism and their Catholic Venetian patrons negotiated their mutual transformation. The story ends with Venice's diplomatic interpreters, the dragomans, who not only produced and disseminated knowledge about the Ottomans but also created dense networks of kinship and patronage across imperial boundaries. Rothman's new conceptual and empirical framework sheds light on institutional practices for managing juridical, religious, and ethnolinguistic difference in the Mediterranean and beyond.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801479960
Number of pages: 352
Weight: 595 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 21 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

"Brokering Empire is a dense and rich study of 'trans-imperial subjects', and the intermediaries who moved between Venice and the Ottoman Empire. Rothman argues that between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the way in which Ottoman difference was described in Venice evolved profoundly, from a legal and commercial conception to a more cultural one, based mainly on ethnicity, language and religion. But as she shows throughout this accomplished and stimulating book, identities were fluid, as was the way in which people interacted in Venetian society in the early modern period."

-- Claire Judde de Lariviere * European History Quarterly *

"Consistent in her anthropological method of working on institutional sites, Rothman creates a site, or rather, an archive of various texts and documents in which the term Levantine is used. From that site she then reads its Mediterranean genealogy of alterity. Throughout the book, Rothman's analysis is supported by extensive references and quotations from the sources, and several appendices, which all bring the sites of research and those who 'inhabit' them to the close proximity of the reader."

-- Snjezana Buzov * Journal of Modern History *

"E. Natalie Rothman's important and groundbreaking book focuses on persons she dubs trans-imperial subjects. Focusing on the period from the Battle of Lepanto (1571) until the end of the War of Crete (1669), Rothman argues that persons who inhabited and negotiated the interstices between the Venetian and the Ottoman empires served as 'imperial boundary-markers.' Brokering Empire is a model of careful research, especially in its subtle analysis of petitions and trial records. Very few first books challenge longstanding assumptions and accepted verities and make readers want to head straight to the archives to dig further. Rothman's book does both. This is a book that deserves a wide and attentive readership, one not confined to those interested in the history of the Venetian and Ottoman empires."

* Renaissance Quarterly *

"Rothman's investigation is based on an impressive volume of untapped Venetian primary sources and is backed by copious notes and a vast bibliography. Her incisive analytical approach and persuasive argumentation are combined with a vivid and colorful narrative, richly illustrated by biographical accounts of trans-imperial subjects. This is undoubtedly an important study, with broad implications for a reevaluation of early modern European history."

-- David Jacoby * Sixteenth Century Journal *

"Rothman's work wonderfully illustrates a point that ethnographers and historians of race have come to understand in general terms, but that has a much wider significance and deserves a much broader audience.... Whether ancestral, religious, gendered, or ethnic, categories of difference are political constructs that those who do the categorising create and those who are categorised ultimately undermine. Therein lies the potentially liberating relationship between structure and human agency. Natalie Rothman's important and erudite book is a salutary reminder of that potential."

-- Sally McKee * English Historical Review *

"The history of trade and diplomacy between Venice and the Ottoman Empire is quite in favor these days and an important contribution is made by E. Natalie Rothman.... Just as the First Crusade benefited the Byzantine Empire and set up what were called for a couple of centuries crusader states, so trade with the East through Venice, chiefly, rearranged political realities and relationships between people."

* Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance *

"Brokering Empire argues compellingly that 'trans-imperial subjects,' as E. Natalie Rothman terms them, were critical in shaping the ways Venetians and Ottomans came to view each other. Commercial agents, converts, and professional translators all created boundaries as they negotiated across them, in the languages of commerce, law, religion, and diplomacy. This book is deeply original and beautifully written."

-- Leslie Peirce, Silver Professor of History, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University

"E. Natalie Rothman introduces the persons and languages of Ottoman lands into the streets, canals, hostels, and political chambers of early modern Venice and puts that amazing city and the whole eastern Mediterranean in a brand new light. Deeply researched and powerfully argued, Brokering Empire makes us rethink the nature of 'belonging' and 'boundaries' in early modern times-and in our own day as well."

-- Natalie Zemon Davis, author of Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds

"It has been a long time since a book surprised me, which Brokering Empire did again and again. It represents a rare breakthrough in conception and research. E. Natalie Rothman reveals how early modern Venetian and Ottoman territories and spheres of influence were constantly shaped and reshaped through interactions among people and institutions."

-- Edward Muir, Northwestern University

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