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Bernard Lewis and the Neocon view of Islam

William Dalrymple October 7, 2007

Tags: Islam , Christianity , Bernard Lewis , Richard Fletcher , Moors , US policy , mediaeval Europe , religion

Truth about Muslims

Books reviewed:

From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East by Bernard Lewis

The Cross and the Crescent: Christianity and Islam from Muhammad to the Reformation by Richard Fletcher

In the Lands of the Christians: Arab Travel Writing in the Seventeenth Century edited and translated by Nabil Matar

Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery by Nabil Matar

Islam in Britain, 1558“1685 by Nabil Matar

Sometime in the early 1140s a scholar from North Italy made an arduous crossing of the Alps and the Pyrenees and eventually arrived in the newly reconquered Spanish town of Toledo. There Gerard of Cremona was given the position of canon at the Cathedral, formerly the Jama Masjid or Friday Mosque, which had recently been seized from the town's Muslims.

Before the rise of Islam, Toledo had been the capital city of Visigothic Spain, and its capture by Alfonso VI of Castile was an important moment in the Christian reconquista of the land known to Islam as al-Andalus. Many of the Muslims of the city had, however, chosen to stay on under Castilian rule, and among them was a scholar named Ghalib ˜the Mozarab. It is not known how Gerard and Ghalib met and became friends, but soon after Gerards arrival the two began to cooperate on a series of translations from Toledos Arabic library which had survived the looting of the conquering Christians.

As Richard Fletcher points out in The Cross and the Crescent: Christianity and Islam from Muhammad to the Reformation, Gerard and Ghalibs mode of translation was not one that would be regarded as ideal by modern scholars Ghalib rendered the classical Arabic of the texts into Castilian Spanish which Gerard then translated on into Latin. As many of the texts were Greek classics which had themselves arrived in Arabic via Syriac there was much room for error. But the system seems to have worked. In the course of the next half-century, Ghalib and Gerard translated no less than 88 Arabic works of astronomy, mathematics, medicine, philosophy and logic, the very branches of learning which underpinned the great revival of scholarship in Europe referred to as the Twelfth Century Renaissance.

Gerard and Ghalibs translations were not alone. Other translations from the Arabic at this period filled European libraries with a richness of learning impossible even to imagine a century before: editions of Aristotle, Euclid, Plato and Ptolemy, commentaries by Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and astrological texts by al-Khwarizmi, encyclopedias of astronomy, illustrated accounts of chess, and guides to precious stones and their medicinal qualities.

It was a crucial but sometimes forgotten moment in the development of Western civilisation: the revival of mediaeval European learning by a wholesale transfusion of scholarship from the Islamic world. It was probably through Islamic Spain that such basic facets of western civilisation as paper, ideas of courtly love, algebra and the abacus passed into Europe, while the pointed arch and Greco-Arab (or Unani from the Arabic word for Greek/Ionian) medicine arrived via Salerno and Sicily, where the Norman king Roger II (known as the Baptised Sultan) was commissioning the Tunisian scholar al-Idrisi to produce an encyclopedic work of geography.

Some scholars go further: Professor George Makdisi has argued convincingly for a major Islamic contribution towards the emergence of the first universities in the mediaeval West, showing how terms such as having fellows holding a chair, or students reading a subject and obtaining degrees, as well as practices such as inaugural lectures and academic robes, can all be traced back to Islamic concepts and practices. Indeed the idea of a university in the modern sense- a place of learning where students congregate to study a wide variety of subjects under a number of teachers- is generally regarded as an Arab innovation first developed at the al-Azhar university in Cairo. As Makdisi has demonstrated, it was in cities bordering the Islamic world- Salerno, Naples, Bologna, Montpellier and Paris- that first developed universities in Christendom, the idea spreading northwards from there.

The tortuous and complex relationship of Western Christendom and the world of Islam has provoked a variety of responses from historians. Some such as the great medievalist, Sir Steven Runciman, take the view (as he wrote at the end of his magisterial three volume history of the Crusades) that our civilisation has grown out of the long sequence of interaction and fusion between Orient and Occident . Runciman believed that the Crusades should be understood less as an attempt to reconquer the Christian heartlands lost to Islam so much as the last of the Barbarian invasions. The real heirs of Roman civilisation were not the chain-mailed knights of the rural West, but the sophisticated Byzantines of Constantinople and the cultivated Arab caliphate of Damascus, both of whom had preserved the Hellenised urban civilisation of the Antique Mediterranean long after it was destroyed in Europe.

Others have seen relations between Islam and Christianity as being basically adversarial, a long drawn-out conflict between the two rival civilisations of East and West: as Gibbon famously observed of the Frankish victory at the Battle of Tours in 732 AD which halted the Arab advance into Europe:

A victorious line of march had been prolongued from the Rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland; the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or the Euphrates, and the Arabian flee might have sailed into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the Revelation of Mahomet.


Of the books under review, Richard Fletcher's The Cross and the Crescent broadly belongs to Runciman's camp, and emphasises the fact that Muslim-Christian relations, while plagued with ignorance, mutual misunderstandings and long periods of outright aggression, have never just been a story of conflict; instead he shows how mediaeval Western civilisation was profoundly cross-fertilised by the learning and literature of Islam.

Bernard Lewis, by contrast, sees the relationship of Islam and Christianity in more confrontational terms. His latest work, From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East is a diverse collection of pieces written over more than half a century. Underlying most of the pieces, however, is the assumption that there are two fixed and opposed forces at work in the history of the Mediterranean world: on one hand, Western civilisation which he envisages as a Judeo-Christian block; and on the other hand, quite distinct, a hostile Islamic world hell-bent on the conquest and conversion of the West. As he writes in one essay, The Roots of Muslim Rage, the struggle between these rival systems has now lasted some fourteen centuries. It began with the advent of Islam, in the seventh century, and has continued virtually to the present day. It has consisted of a long series of attacks and counterattacks, jihads and crusades, conquests and reconquests [p320]. It was this essay that contained the phrase the Clash of Civilisations later borrowed by Samuel Huntingdon for his controversial Foreign Affairs article.

Lewis's trenchant views have made him a number of enemies, notably the late Edward Said, who wrote in Orientalism that Lewis's work purports to be liberal objective scholarship but is in reality very close to being propaganda against his subject . In the aftermath of the Islamist attacks on America, Lewis's reputation has, however, undergone something of a revival. Not only have two of his books- What Went Wrong? and The Crisis of Islam- been major US bestsellers, Lewis's ideas have formed the intellectual foundations for the Neocon view of the Muslim world. Lewis has addressed the White House, and Dick Cheney and Richard Perle have both been named as disciples.

A series of prominent polemical pieces in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, reprinted in this collection, give an idea of the sort of advice Lewis would have offered his fans in the White House. For Lewis used the attack on the World Trade Centre to encourage the US to attack Saddam Hussein, implicitly making a link between the al-Qa'eda operation and the secular Iraqi Baathist regime, while assuring the administration that they would be feted by the populace who look to us for help and liberation [p379] and thanked by other Muslim governments whose secret dearest wish [p370] was an American invasion to remove and replace Saddam.

Lewis has had such a profound influence that according to the Wall Street Journal, the Lewis doctrine, in effect, had become US policy. If that policy has now been shown to be fundamentally flawed and based on a set of wholly erroneous assumptions, it follows that for all his scholarship, Lewis's understanding of the subtleties of the contemporary Islamic world is, in some respects at least, dangerously defective.

* * *

Richard Fletcher is a specialist in early mediaeval Europe. He is particularly interested in relations between Christians and Muslims in Moorish Spain about which he has written two books, one of which, The Quest for El Cid, won both the LA Times History Prize and Britain's Wolfson Prize. The Cross and the Crescent is if anything even better than his Cid book: a small miracle of judicious compression and effortless erudition. Beautifully written, witty, wise and eminently readable it is as good an introduction as I have read to the history of mediaeval Islam and its relations with the Christian world.

Throughout, Fletcher highlights points of contact between the two worlds. He emphasises how the Prophet Muhammad did not think he was founding a new religion, so much as bringing the fullness of divine revelation, partially granted to earlier prophets such as Abraham, Moses or Jesus, to the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula. After all, Islam accepts much of the Old and New Testaments and obeys the Mosaic laws about circumcision and ablutions, while the Koran calls Christians the "nearest in love" to Muslims, whom it instructs in Surah 29 to "dispute not with the People of the Book [that is, Jews and Christians] save in the most courteous manner¦ and say, ˜We believe in what has been sent down to us and what has been sent down to you; our God and your God is one, and to him we have surrendered.

Fletcher also stresses the degree to which the Muslim armies were welcomed as liberators by the Syriac and Coptic Christians who had suffered discrimination under the strictly Orthodox Byzantines: to the persecuted Monophysite Christians of Syria and Egypt, Muslims could be presented as deliverers. The same could be said of the persecuted Jews¦ Released from the bondage of Constantinopolitan persecution they flourished as never before, generating in the process a rich spiritual literature in hymns, prayers, sermons and devotional work.

Recent excavations by the Jerusalem-based archaeologist Michele Piccirillo have dramatically underlined this point. They have shown that the conquest of Byzantine Palestine by the Arabs resulted in an almost unparalleled burst of church building and the construction of some remarkable Hellenistic mosaics, implying that under the rule of the Ummayad Caliphs of Damascus religious practice was freer and the economy flourishing.

Early Byzantine writers, including the most subtle theologian of the early church, St. John Damascene, assumed that Islam was merely a heterodox form of Christianity. This perception is particularly fascinating as St. John had grown up in the Ummayad court of Damascus- the hub of the young Islamic world- where his father was chancellor, and he was an intimate friend of the future Caliph al-Yazid. In his old age, John took the habit at the desert monastery of Mar Saba where he began work on his great masterpiece, a refutation of heresies entitled the Fount of Knowledge. The book contains a precise critique of Islam, the first written by a Christian, which John regarded closely related to the heterodox Christian doctrine of Nestorianism. This was a kinship that both the Muslims and the Nestorians were aware of. In 649 a Nestorian bishop wrote: These Arabs fight not against our Christian religion; nay, rather they defend our faith, they revere our priests and saints, and they make gifts to our churches.

Throughout the mediaeval period, Christians and Muslims continued to meet as much in the context of trade and scholarship as they did on the battlefield. The tolerant and pluralistic civilisation of Muslim al-Andalus allowed a particularly fruitful interaction. A revealing moment highlighted by Fletcher was when, in 949, a Byzantine embassy presented the court of Cordoba with the works of the Greek physician Dioscorides:

There were no scholars in Spain who knew Greek, so an appeal was sent back to Constantinople in answer to which a learned Greek monk named Nicholas was sent to Spain in 951. A Muslim scholar from Sicily with a knowledge of Greek was also found. Together these two expounded the text to a group of Spanish scholars. This group was a most interesting one. It included native Andalusian Islamic scholars such as Ibn Juljul, who later composed a commentary on Dioscorides; a distinguished Jewish physician and courtier, Hasday ibn Shaprut; and a Mozarabic bishop Recemund of Elvira [who had been sent as the Caliph's ambassador to the German Emperor Otto I] who was the author of the Calendar of Cordoba. It was a truly international and interdenominational gathering of scholars.


Throughout the Crusades, the Venetians and other Italian trading cities kept up a profitable trade with their Muslim counterparts, resulting in a great many Arabic words surviving in Venetian dialect and a profound Islamic influence on Venetian architecture . Even Christian clerics who cohabited with Muslims in the Crusader kingdoms came to realise that as much bound them together as separated them. As William of Tripoli reported from Acre in 1272: though their beliefs are decorated with fictions, yet it now manifestly appears that they are near to the Christian faith and not far from the path of salvation. At the same time the Muslim traveller Ibn Jubayr noted that despite the military struggles for control of Palestine yet Muslims and Christian travellers will come and go between them without interference.

There were of course no shortage of travellers on both sides who could see no good in the infidels amongst whom they were obliged to mingle, and tensions often existed between Muslim rulers and the diverse religious communities living under their capricious thumb: by modern standards Muslims and Jews under Muslim rule- the dhimmi- were treated as second-class citizens. But there was at least a kind of pluralist equilibrium (what Spanish historians have called convivencia or living together) which had no parallel in Christendom and which in Spain was lost soon after the completion of the Christian reconquista: on taking Grenada, the Catholic Kings expelled the Moors and Jews, and let loose the Inquisition on those- the New Christians- who had converted. There was a similar pattern in Sicily. After a fruitful period of tolerant coexistence under the Norman kings, the Muslims were later given a blunt choice of transportation or conversion.

* * *

Bernard Lewis's collection of 51 essays, From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East can be read as an account of the end of an affair: Lewis's growing irritation with a culture and a people that once thrilled and fascinated him. The book's contents range from erudite lectures and specialist scholarly essays to light belles lettres and some stridently polemical journalism. Over the years, however, one can see Lewis's enthusiasm for matters Muslim slowly but steadily giving way, from the late 1950's onwards, to an increasingly negative, disillusioned and occasionally contemptuous tone. From Babel to Dragomans certainly highlights the complexity of Lewis's love/hate relationship with the Islamic world he has studied since 1933.

At his best, Lewis can be witty, playful and polymathically erudite. The title piece is a short history of interpreters and translation from the Book of Genesis to the United Nations, stopping off en route in the company of Pliny, Plutarch, Bertha the daughter of Lothar, queen of Franja, various Ottoman sultans, Ibsen, Hans Christian Andersen and Ismail Kadare. A wonderful piece on Middle East Feasts, published in these pages, gives him full opportunity to show off his astonishing linguistic range and we learn the reason why, for example, the American fowl we call a turkey is known as hindi (Indian) in Turkish and in Arabic either dik habashi (the Ethiopian bird) or the dik rumi (the bird from Rum, ie Byzantium): all these words simply mean something strange and exotic from a far and unknown place. [p34]

Compared to the sophistication of such pieces, Lewis's recent newspaper polemics read with much less subtlety, as he trenchantly argues for invasions, the toppling of unappealing regimes, and implies that the only languages they understand is brute force: the Islamic world, he claims at several points, does not respect weakness and believes that the Americans have gone soft [p369, p376]. Across the Islamic world, Lewis argues, the people are praying for the US to liberate them from their tyrannical governments: one is often told that if we succeed in overthrowing the regimes of what President Bush has rightly called The Axis of Evil the scenes of rejoicing would even exceed those that followed the liberation of Kabul [p380]. It is here that Saids charge of Lewis acting as a propagandist against his subject ring most true.

In several places Lewis argues that Islamic hostility to America has less to do with American foreign policy in the Muslim world, notably American support for Israel, than a generalised Islamic envy [p375] and rage directed against its ancient cultural rival. This he claims derives from a feeling of humiliation- a growing awareness, among the heirs of an old, proud, and long dormant civilisation, of having been overtaken, overborne and overwhelmed by those whom they regarded as their inferiors. [p328]

The idea that the Islamic world has been humiliated by a West it once despised and ignored, and that it has never come to terms with this reversal, is a thesis which links Lewis's historical work and his journalism, and which has come to form his central theme. For a thousand years, argues Lewis, Islam was technologically superior to Christendom and dominated its Christian neighbours; but since the failure of the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, the Muslim world has been in retreat. Militarily, economically and scientifically it was soon eclipsed by its Christian rivals. Failure led first to a profound humiliation, then an aggressive hatred of the West: This is no less than a clash of civilisations- the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both[p330].

It is a thesis which Lewis first formed in his Muslim Discovery of Europe [1980] and developed with a more contemporary spin in The Crisis of Islam and What Went Wrong? [2002]. The idea reappears in various guises in no less than five essays in From Babel to Dragomans .

During the 16th and 17th centuries in particular Lewis believes that there was a crucial and fatal failure of curiosity about development in Europe. In the conclusion to The Muslim Discovery of Europe, Lewis contrasts the situation in Britain and Ottoman Turkey at this period:

The first chair of Arabic in England was founded by Sir Thomas Adams at Cambridge university in 1633. There, and in similar centres in other west European countries, a great effort of creative scholarship was devoted to the languages, literatures, and cultures of the region All this is in striking contrast to the almost total lack of interest displayed by Middle Easterners in the languages, cultures and religions of Europe¦ The record shows that , until the latter part of the eighteenth century the information [complied by the Ottoman state about Europe] was usually superficial, often inaccurate, and almost always out of date [p296-7]

There were some changes in the eighteenth century, such as the adoption of European-style diplomacy and military techniques, but it was only in the early 19th century that there was any substantial change in Muslim attitudes. In an essay entitled On Occidentalism and Orientalism Lewis writes:

By the beginning of the 19th century, Muslims first in Turkey and then elsewhere, were becoming aware of the changing balance, not only of power but also of knowledge, between Christendom and Islam, and for the first time they thought it worth the effort to learn European languages¦ It was not until well into the 19th century that we find any attempt in any of the languages of the Middle East to produce grammars or dictionaries which would enable speakers of those languages to learn a Western language. And when it did happen, it was due largely to the initiative of those two detested intruders, the imperialist and the missionary. This is surely a striking contrast [to the situation in Europe] and it has prompted many to ask the question: why were the Muslims so uninterested?[p434]

By then it was too late: during the course of the 19th and 20th centuries the colonial West imposed itself by force on Muslim countries from the Middle East to Indonesia a new era in which the Muslim discovery of Europe was forced, massive, and for the most part, painful .

Lewis emphasises that until the 19th century there was little question of Muslims going to study in Europe. As he writes in the essay Europe and Islam: The question of travel for study did not arise, since clearly there was nothing to be learned from the benighted infidels of the outer wilderness. [p132] Again and again, Lewis returns to his idea that Muslim awareness of belonging to the most advanced and enlightened civilisation in the world [p433] led to the lack of a spirit of enquiry that might otherwise have propelled individuals to explore the non-Muslim world:

Few Muslims travelled voluntarily to the land of the infidels. Even the involuntary travellers, the many captives taken in the endless wars, had nothing to say after their ransom and return, and perhaps no one to listen a few notes and fragments constitute almost the whole of Muslim travel literature of Europe... [p210 ]

Such a view was tenable when there was only vague awareness of what Islamic libraries actually contained, but discoveries over the last thirty years have shown that this apparent lacuna was more the result of lack of archival research on the part of Lewis than any failing by Muslim writers. Lewis's findings, while always well argued, now appear somewhat dated. It is true that the Muslim world fell behind the West, and (as Fletcher nicely puts it) the cultural suppleness [and] adaptability shown by the early Muslim states who absorbed the learning of Byzantium and ancient Persia seemed to run out in later epochs [p161]; but it is not true that the reason for this was a lofty disdain or hatred for the West, nor that Muslims failed to take an intense and often enthusiastic interest in developments there.

* * *

Perhaps the best counterblast to this central strand of Lewis's thought are three remarkable books by Nabil Matar, a Christian Palestinian scholar who has spent the last three decades digging in archives across the Islamic world.

The first two, Islam in Britian 1558-1685 [1998] and Turk, Moors and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery [2000] show the degree to which individuals from the Islamic and Christian world mixed and intermingled during the 16th and 17th centuries, while the most recent , In The Land of the Christians: Arabic Travel Writing in the Seventeenth Century [2003] directly counters Lewis's idea that Muslim interest in the West only really began in earnest in the 19th century . Here a succession of previously unknown 17th century travel narratives unfold in English translation, with Arab writer after writer describing their intense interest in and excitement with Western science, literature, music, politics and even opera. As Matar emphasises in his introduction:

the writings in this volume reveal [that] travellers, envoys, ambassadors, traders and clerics were eager to ask questions about bilad al-nasara (The Land of the Christians) and to record their answers- and then turn their impressions into documents. They all wrote with precision and perspicacity, producing the most detailed and empirically based information about the way in which non-Europeans view Europeans in the early modern period. No other non-Christian people- neither the American Indians nor the sub Saharan Africans nor the Asiatics- left behind as extensive a description of the Europeans and of the bilad al-nasara, both in the European as well as the American continents, as did Arabic writers.

Recent research in Indian Muslim and Iranian archives has revealed a similar fascination with the developments in the West in the early modern period .

Matar's work is full of surprises for anyone who believes that Christian-Muslim relations have always been exclusively confrontational. In Turks, Moors & Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, we learn for example that in 1603, Ahmad al-Mansur the King of Morocco was making a proposal to his English ally, Queen Elizabeth I. The idea was a simple one: that England was to help the Moors colonise America.

The King proposed that Moroccan and English troops, using English ships, should together attack the Spanish colonies in America, expel their hated Spanish enemies, and then possess the land and keep it under our [joint] dominion for ever. There was a catch, however. Might it not be more sensible, suggested the King, that most of the future colonists should be Moroccan rather than English: those of your countrie doe not fynde themselfes fitt to endure the extremetie of heat there, where our men endure it very well by reason that heat hurtes them not. After due consideration, the Moroccan offer was not taken up by Her Majesty.

Such a proposal might seem extraordinary today, but at the time it clearly raised few eyebrows. After all, as Matar points out, the English were close allies of both the Moroccans and their overlords, the Ottomans- indeed the Pope regarded Elizabeth as “a confederate with the Turksâ€. The English might have their reservations about Islam, but these were nothing compared to their hatred and fear of ˜Popery . As well as treaties of trade and friendship this alliance led to several joint expeditions, such as an Anglo-Moroccan attack on Cadiz in 1596. It also led to a great movement of people between the two worlds. Elizabethan London had a burgeoning Muslim community which encompassed a large party of Turkish ex-prisoners, some Moorish craftsmen, a number of wealthy Turkish merchants and a Moorish solicitor, as well as Albion Blackamore, the Turkish Rope-daunser.

If there was a small but confident Muslim community in London, then much larger numbers of Englishmen could be found living across the Ottoman Empire as Matar shows in Islam in Britain 1558-1685. British travellers regularly brought back tales of their compatriots who had 'crossed over' and were now prospering in Ottoman service: one of the most powerful Ottoman eunuchs during the sixteenth century, Hasan Aga, was the former Samson Rowlie from Great Yarmouth, while in Algeria the "Moorish Kings Executioner" turned out to be a former butcher from Exeter called 'Absalom' (Abd-es-Salaam) . When Charles II sent Captain Hamilton to ransom some Englishmen enslaved on the Barbary Coast his mission was unsuccessful as they all refused to return: the men had all converted to Islam and were now "partaking of the prosperous Successe of the Turks", living in a style to which they could not possibly have aspired back home. The frustrated Hamilton was forced to return empty-handed: "They are tempted to forsake their God for the love of Turkish women," he wrote in his report. "Such ladies are," he added, "generally very beautiful."

There is a serious point underlying such anecdotes, for they show that throughout history, Muslims and Christians have traded, studied, negotiated and loved across the porous frontiers of religious differences. Probe relations between the two civilisations at any period of history, and you find that the neat civilisational blocks imagined by writers such as Bernard Lewis or Samuel Huntingdon soon dissolve. What is most interesting in many of the cases described by Matar is that Islam overwhelmed as often by its power of attraction as the sword. Indeed the English ambassador Sir Thomas Shirley pointed out, the more time Englishmen spent in the East, the closer they moved to adopting the manners of the Muslims: "conuersation with infidelles doeth mutch corrupte, he wrote. "Many wylde youthes of all nationes... in euerye 3 yeere that they staye in Turkye they loose one article of theyre faythe." In 1606 even the British consul in Egypt, Benjamin Bishop, converted and promptly disappeared from records. It was the a similar situation in India where up until the mid 19th century substantial numbers of Britains were taking on aspects of Mughal culture, marrying Mughal women and converting to Islam .

In one matter, however, Matar demonstrates something that will surprise no one: that English cooking, then as now, left much to be desired. For while English society was thrilled to taste Turkish cooking when the Ottoman Ambassador presided over a feast  la Turkeska  at his residence, the Moors proved rather less impressed by English fair. This emerges from the story of one unfortunate English captive who was captured in a sea battle and taken to Algiers where he was put to work as a cook. This proved a mistake for everyone involved. Unused to the exotic ingredients of the region, the Englishman found himself producing such mad sauces, and such strange Ragoux that every one took me for a Cook of the Antipodes. Worse was the reaction of his master. He declared that the food hath the most loathsom taste, and ordered that the cook should be gives ten Bastonadoes and returned to the slavemarket. As far as the King was concerned, the English, it seems, made better galleyslaves than gourmets.


1. George Makdisi, The Rise of Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West (1981) and The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West (1990) See also Hugh Goddard, A History of Christian-Muslim relations (2000)
2. Sir Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades- volume 3: The Kingdom of Acre p480.
3. Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed J.B Bury , Vol 6, Chap 52:16.
4. Lewis in fact first coined the phrase in an article about Suez published in 1957, and has reused it intermittently ever since.
5. Edward Said, Orientalism 1978, p316 These pages played host to a celebrated exchange between Lewis and Said in 1982
6. See Michele Piccirillo, The Mosaics of Jordan which illustrates some of the remarkable Byzantine floor mosaics excavated by Piccirillo. Those constructed during the Ummayyad period show, surprisingly, such Hellenistic subjects as satyrs with flutes leading Christianised Bacchic processions while angelic Cupids swoop above orange trees. Similar tendencies can be found in the mosaics of the Ummayad winter palace in Jericho built by Caliph Hisham el Malik. There is an interview with Piccirillo in my book, From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East.
7. Margaret Smith, Studies in Early Mysticism in the Near and Middle East, p120
8. The Islamic influence on Venice has recently received magnificent treatment from the Cambridge art historian Deborah Howard in her book, Venice and the East, reviewed in these pages by Hugh Honour. As well as showing the profound Islamic influence on buildings such as the Doges palace and the Palazzo Ducale, she also charts Arab influence on Venetian painting, town planning, domestic architecture, jewellery and speech.
9. This is explored in depth in my White Mughals [2002] In the wills of the late eighteenth century, one in three British men in India were leaving their goods either to an Indian wife or an Anglo-Indian child.
10. Lewis, The Muslim Discovery of Europe p12
11. In the essay Europe and Islam Lewis dates the first influential Arab account of a European country to the years following 1831 [p128]
12. For early Indian Muslim interest in and knowledge of the West see Sanjay Subrahmanyam's fascinating, Connected Histories: Notes toward a Reconfiguration of Early Modern Eurasia, Modern Asian Studies, 31, 3, Special Issue: The Eurasian Context of the Early Modern History of Mainland South East Asia, 1400-1800 (July 1997), 735-62. Also good is Gulfishan Khan, Indian Muslim Percepetions of the West During the Eighteen Century [1988] Michael Fisher has edited an edition of Dean Mahomet's 18th century account of his journey from India to Europe which, remarkably, he wrote in English. Fisher is currently working on publishing for the first time the voluminous corpus of Mughal travel accounts. For Iran see Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, "Modernity Heterotopia and Homeless Texts," Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, 18, 2 (1998) and his Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and historiography (New York: Palgrave, 2001). For recent work on intimate Ottoman relations with Europe see Daniel Goffman, Britons in the Ottoman Empire 1642-1660 and Philip Mansel, Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, 1453-1924.
13. Inter-Christian rivalry was always a powerful factor leading to alliances and arrangements between Muslims and Christian states. Just before the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the Orthodox monks famously refused to agree to submit to the Papacy in return for military aid against the Ottomans. As the Byzantine dignitary Lucas Notaras famously observed: It is better to see in the city the power of the Turkish turban than that of the Latin tiara.
14. For English captives in North Africa see also Linda Colley Captives: Britain, Empire and the World 1600-1850 and Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800
15. This is explored in depth in my White Mughals [2002] In the wills of the late eighteenth century, one in three British men in India were leaving their goods either to an Indian wife or an Anglo-Indian child.

William Dalrymple's most recent book, White Mughals (Viking Penguin) won the Wolfson Prize for History. A stage version by Christopher Hampton has just been commissioned by the National Theatre.



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