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Ottoman Politics through British Eyes: Paul Rycaut's "The Present State of the Ottoman Empire" Author(s):

Ottoman Politics through British Eyes: Paul Rycaut's "The Present State of the Ottoman Empire" Author(s): Linda T. Darling Reviewed work(s):

Source: Journal of World History, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Spring, 1994), pp. 71-97 Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

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Ottoman

Politics

Paul Rycaut;s

through

British

Eyes:

The Present State of the

*

Ottoman Empire

LINDA

T. DARLING

University

of Arizona

toward

teaching

will

now

the world

teachers

suitable

students,

the

early

by

the

lands

of

encounter

a

on

growing

of

trend

students

world

history

means

that

peo

an

cul

them

classes

ples

and

enormous

style

who

tures

selves.

mary

texts

spot.

The

to assign

I refer,

intrepid

who

ventured

experiences

status;

State

among

of

The

the non-European

regular

in

basis.

the

old

This

materials

of

speak

on

educating

period

one

can

who

of

were

travel

actually

or

cultures

burden

have

to

to

of

of

puts

on

find

their

for

course,

trained

reading

not

to

modern

people

literature

merchants,

and

ethnocentric

other

Fortunately,

written

find

on

pri

the

by

their

in English

to

produced

Europeans?explorers,

to distant

there.

them

Some

ambassadors?

about

returned

accounts

work

of

to write

have

of

instant

Rycaut's

these

attained

1665,

The

access

book

classic

Present

is Paul

Empire.1

literature

presents

Rycaut's

as

certain

the Ottoman

use

of

this

world

a means

to

the

premodern

problems.

is not

* Earlier

East

Studies

Center;

grateful

versions

and

to

help,

of

this

1991-92

the

paper

Brownbag

participants

historians:

were

given

Series

for

Rachel

of

the

their

Weil

(University

to

the

(London:

International

at

1991 Western

(University

of

Conference

of Arizona's

I am

Georgia),

for

Paul

on

Mid

espe

for

British

dle

cially

bibliographic

the

I thank

two

the University

helpful

following

John

comments.

of

Arizona),

edition:

Starkey

Publishers,

British

and

references

of

to Richard

the

in

the

Ottoman

England:

Cosgrove

text

Empire

are

Gregg

reading

Rycaut,

Henry

the manuscript.

The

Brome,

1 Parenthetical

Present

State

1668;

and

1972).

rpt., Westmead,

Journal

?

of World

History,

Vol.

1994 by University

of Hawaii

5, No.

1

Press

71

72

just

ple

as

a straightforward

and

government

if itwere.

In

the

JOURNAL

OF WORLD

eyewitness

description

in the

seventeenth

century,

dedication

Rycaut

announced

HISTORY,

of

SPRING

1994

peo

it reads

pre

the Ottoman

although

that

he was

senting

This

book,

nors

his

observations

but

our

seems

not

merely

for

worthy

purpose

of

the

(Epistle

complex

English

kings

the

of

consideration,

education

or

concernment

entertainment

of

statement

one

as well

that

"as

a matter

our

or

Kings

or

to demand

the

exotica.

Governors"

a more

of

Dedicatory).

reading

and

of

gover

the

involves

concerns

as Ottoman

Born

in

1629, Paul

Rycaut

was

of Huguenot

His

extraction,

father

lost

his

of

royalist

the world.

He

he

In

spent

1660,

as

Ottoman

Rycaut

private

some

after

the

property

son

of

during

a wealthy

immigrant

merchant.2

the Commonwealth

was

forced

in diplomacy,

as

his

a consequence

a c o n s e q u e n c e

own

way

course

of which

II

in France.

in

appointment

to

the

activities,

chose

time

a

at

the Res

to

so Paul

career

to make

in the

Charles

an

the

toration,

court

of

he

the

was

exiled

granted

new

Earl

secretary

in

King

bul,

Charles's

the

ambassador

of

sultan

simultaneously

Istan

royalist

Winchilsea.3

served

writing

in

as

of

the

The

Levant

Present

though

of

was

the

Company's

State

not

court

secretary

in

to England's

Istanbul.

With

the

secretary

of

himself

prefer

recommenda

in Izmir,

or

sought

the

brought

further

(presented

until

attempt

eleven

state

to

1665

published

in an

in

consul

held

for

1668), he

to obtain

the

notice

He

Rycaut

was

ment.

tion,

successful:

made

he

1667,

for

on Winchilsea's

the Levant

years.4

Company

He

later

Smyrna,

a position

2 We

say Ree-co,

Rycaut

of National

the man

and

his

and

C.

Observer

J. Heywood,

(Los

Angeles:

details

Report

?d.

and

Harold

but

Biography,

works

of

apparently

s.v. Rycaut

is provided

the

Ottoman

can

English

William

also

be

and

Andrews

found

on

S.

the Manuscripts

C. Lomas,

Bowen,

2 vols.

British

himself

by

pronounced

or Ricaut,

J. Hey

State:

Sir

Views

Paul.

"Sir

for

C.

wood,

Notes

a

of

Continental

Clark

Memorial

in Great

Britain,

of Allan

(London:

Contributions

George

His

his

Rye-coat.

short

intro

Rycaut,

Study,"

the

in

Ottoman

a

E

Library,

Historical

Finch,

Esq.

1972)

Manu

of Bur

Stationer's

Studies

Turkish

name

A

Paul

See

duction

Seventeenth-Century

Dictionary

to

Shaw

31-59.

Kural

Empire,

1500-1800,

Biographical

pp.

Office,

scripts

ley-on-the-Hill, Rutland,

Commission,

1913),

i:xlv;

Majesty's

to

(London:

Longmans,

1945),

and

3 Dictionary

Historical

of National

Manuscripts

p.

20.

Biography,

s.v.

Commission,

Finch,

Report

Heneage,

on

the

2nd

Manuscripts

earl

of Winchilsea;

of

Allan

George

duties

Finch

,

i:v-vii.

and

remuneration

On

of

the

the

ambassadorial

ambassador

and

appointment

staff,

his

see

procedure

Albert

C. Wood,

and

the

"The

English

Embassy

at

Constantinople,

1660-1762,"

(1925): 533-61.

P.

4 A

recent

Anderson,

study

of

Rycaut's

An

English

Consul

experience

as

in

Turkey:

the

Paul

(Oxford:

Clarendon

New

Perspectives

on

Press,

Turkey

1989);

4

see

(1990):

also

105-10.

a

critical

English

English

Rycaut

review

Historical

Review

40

consul

at

by

in

Smyrna,

Izmir

is Sonia

1667-1678

Daniel

Goffman

in

Darling:

D a r l i n g :

post

with

of

positions

Ottoman

ambassador

Politics

through

British

Eyes

to

the Ottoman

He

empire

nevertheless

elsewhere.

about

the Ottomans

in several

later works.

but

had

to be

continued

73

satisfied

to write

Thus,

royalist

The

after

Present

the Restoration

State

is

had

characterized

as

the most

a

book

about

written

by

a government

absolutist

of

the

a young

English

that

Jean

European

Bodin

mon

archies.5

in all

sultan

seem

dice,

its

recounting

Nor

tory.

One

forms,

might

but

then

expect

the book

to approve

not.

Rycaut's

picture

of

negative,

even

more

so

this

hostile

view

to

given

of

the

present

a

his

details

simple

of monarchy

the Ottoman

his

than

facts

or preju

insightful

it does

impossible

chapters

is uncompromisingly

to warrant.

however,

in

does

Ascribing

is

later

the

book

ignorance

and

accurate

of

Turkish

life

and

his

contrast

between

bad

Ottoman

within

tion

despotism

and

of

in his

good

the Ottomans

praise

only

English

monarchy.

Contradictions

by

This

a more

equivoca

ambigu

complex

image

of

Islam,

the Otto

fear

fair

amount

were

estab

of

of

1580s,

the

writings

English

Ottoman

were

or

the mar

Rycaut's

view

position

are matched

kingship.

and

hesitancy

of

late

was

of English

be

resolved

in writing

he

the British

as

by

did.

prejudice

trade,

against

and

a

relations

the

visit

in

to

first

their

import

ity

in Rycaut's

can

purpose

understanding

man

Until

the

Empire

a powerful

ignorance

lished

his

sixteenth

century,

of

compounded

the

lure

of

After

and

and

home

commercial

the

By

enemy,

and

eastern

hearsay.6

England

permanent

the

Ottomans

began

it.7 At

second

like

between

and

merchants,

Empire

filled

vels

tury,

with

of

an

consuls,

to write

notices

of

alien

culture.

an

diplomats

about

and military

half

Rycaut

of

the

seventeenth

cen

could

become

close

however,

Englishman

Bodin,

5 Jean

English

versity

Absolutist

Translation

Press,

Theory

The

1962),

of

p.

Six

1606,

201.

Bookes

ed.

See

of

Commonweale:

Commonweale:

Douglas

McRae

H.

H. F r a n k l i n ,

Franklin,

University

U n i v e r s i t y

a

Julian

Kenneth

also

Cambridge

(Cambridge:

A

Facsimile

(Cambridge:

Jean

Press,

Bodin

1973).

Reprint

of

Harvard

and

the Rise

the

Uni

of

6 A

recent

appears

compendium

in

the

notes

A

added

Periodization

Journal

two

of

volumes

Juridique

des

de Recherche

first

Englishmen

and

the

History

to

of

an

of

the

literature

by

on

Rhoads

English

European

Murphey:

and

views

of

the

Islamic

"Bigots

Informed

or

on

his

Documenta

To

the

list

Writing

291-303.

et

de

Les

m?tamor

Editions

du

Cen

Wil

of

and

Skilliter,

Study

1977);

University

Press,

Oxford

world

Observers?

Middle

article

Pre-Colonial

European

East,"

be

the American

 

Oriental

Society

no

(1990):

published

by

the

Centre

d'Etudes

Sociale,

Cairo,

D'un

orient

?

 

et

connaissances,

2 vols.

(Paris:

 

1991).

in

the

Ottoman

Empire,

see

Susan

with

Turkey,

1578-1582:

A

 

(London:

Oxford

University

the

Levant

Company

(London:

Scientifique,

Trade

Relations

of

Vautre:

should

tion

Economique,

successives

et

perceptions

phoses

tre National

7 For

liam

the

Alfred

Press,

First

the

Harborne

A.

Documentary

Anglo-Ottoman

C. Wood,

1935).

A

74

JOURNAL

OF WORLD

HISTORY,

SPRING

1994

enough

The

Ottoman

been

to

the Ottoman

Present

important

government

State

political,

officials

and

to obtain

an

the

inside

accurate

and

religious

then,

drew

of

that

detailed

information

 

on

intrigues.

report

on

that

has

with

these

despot

can

dis

story

and

on

up-to-date

palace

organization

side

by

side

of Ottoman

and

fear. We

contains

military,

by

profitably

It

is

all

used

scholars.

stock

the more

details,

startling,

Rycaut

out

of

the

old

knowledgeable

ism

straight

a picture

ignorance

miss

the

idea

that

he

knew

no

better.

A more

reasonable

hypothe

sis

style

is

Rycaut's

aspects

guage

meaning

that

and

he

was

using

of

on

an

old

the

stereotype

book

for

new

purposes.

reflect

Even

its

state

The

structure

comments

he

of

his

used

in

the

own

support

political

national

such

life

history.

court

of

the

gained

English

a

hypothesis.

specific

the

lan

form

in

and

the

Ottoman

and

personal

to report

political

on

the Ottoman

vicissitudes

seventeenth

Read

tion.

commentary

standing

tory.8

Rycaut's

century?the

Civil War,

Commonwealth,

through

on

it becomes

these

English

lenses,

politics

an

exercise

The

in

in both

Present

Turkish

Ottoman

State

guise,

and

book

ostensibly

fits within

a

tradition

of

and

Restora

emerges

and

English

as

under

his

reporting

reporting

a

on

the

Ottoman

Empire

for

defense

purposes.

This

originated

into

all

in Renaissance

the major

European

Italy,

and

its products

languages.9

Such

cerned

with

the

question

of how

difficult

itwould

genre

were

of works

translated

works

be

were

to defeat

con

the

Ottomans

in their

in battle;

pages

along

met

the

requirements

military

enrollment,

tion

is

tacked

onto

thus,

with

of

naval

organization

military

the

genre

and

by

strength,

and

political

morale

on.

found

a place

conditions.

exact

But

this

Rycaut

figures

on

informa

providing

so

and

the

end

of

his

book

and

occupies

less

than

a

8

Like

of

other

was

the

and

errors;

works

translated

on

the

several

French

Ottoman

times.

during

Empire,

Numerous

Rycaut's

Turk

Rycaut's

tenure,

pointed

book

proved

including

of

book

(London:

that

the

the

quite

popu

trea

French

lar

many

and

surer

embassy,

authorities,

the

out

secretary

that

the

critics

Levant

the

see

be

Company

book's

G.

translator,

the

occur

contained

Macmil

some

of

the

F. Abbot,

deliberate.

Under

it did

not

in Constantinople

to any

of

these

lan, 1920), p. 66. Apparently,

"errors" might

9 Bibliographies

of

these

Library,"

works

in

Howe

can

Shaw

Lybyer,

Turcica

Views,

the

in

pp.

Time

the

60-66;

of

a p p e n d i x .

appendix.

Clarke

and

i n p p . T i m e t h e 6 0 - 6

See

Albert

Suleiman

also

and

Literature

in

1913),

the Magnificent

Clarence

(1520-1660)

Dana

(Paris:

Thought,

be

found

and

The

in W.

Heywood,

Government

(Cambridge:

E.

Conway,

"Checklist

English

of

Harvard

and

Continental

the Ottoman

University

Empire

Press,

Rouillard,

Boirin,

The

1941).

Turk

in

French

History,

of

Darling:

quarter

cal

emphasis

and

man

the

Ottoman

Politics

matters,

of

through

bulk

and

British

of

politics

Eyes

the work

in part

reflect

seventeenth

is

holds

the

century,

the

author.

Distant

75

politi

This

of

religious

its pages.

on

The

may

in the

taken

up with

of

place.

of

it also

was

pride

lessening

but

England

politics

threat

the Otto

signals

more

military

preoccupations

 

and

negotiation

 

than

in military

conquest:

besides,

Turkish

gland's

tions

in

trade

experience

his

own

advancement,

the most

politics.

Rycaut

brought

for

his

En

to

bear

on

and

crucial

Rycaut's

issues

political

reflec

 

in the

first

four

chapters

of

his

sixty-chap

ter work,

which

constitute

the opening

portion

of

the

first

of

three

"Books"

into

which

it

is divided.

The

first

and

longest

"Book"

(twenty-two

chapters),

on

the

governmental

 

structure

and

prac

tices

of

the

Ottomans,

is

entitled

"The

Maximes

of

the

Turkish

Politic"

The

second

"Book"

(twenty-six

chapters)

is entitled

"Of

the Turkish

Religion";

the

third

(twelve

chapters)

is "Of

the Turk

ish Militia"

 

(that

is, military

 

forces).

Within

Book

One,

the

first

three

chapters

are