The Encounter with the Ottoman Heritage: Imperial Grandeur, Medieval Decay, and Double Discourses



The onset of the Enlightenment ushered in a novel curiosity. Krzystof Pomian defines the early modern era as an ‘age of curiosity’ and as ‘an interim rule between those of theology and science’.1 Especially in the 18th century with the expansion of the British Empire, the British gentleman traveling overseas to British outposts pioneered a new phenomenon, the collecting of curiosities.2 These English gentlemen collected vases, urns, coins, fossils, seeds and plants, stuffed animals, and antiques from exotic places. It is not a coincidence that the British Museum was a natural sequel to the British imperial expansion. It was founded through the will of Sir Hans Sloane to display his vast collec- tions publicly, and it expanded with the contributions of other impe- rial collectors who brought their marvels from all around the world.3 The discovery of Roman, Greek, and, later, ancient Egyptian artifacts in the early 19th century further fueled this fascination. The collectors of antique artifacts developed a dialog with the ancients and attributed meanings to these artifacts far superseding their material qualities.4 Although this curiosity was more an aristocratic preoccupation, the new quest for antiques was not confined to aristocrats who were mesmerized by Greco-Roman artistic products. It certainly had a popular appeal in Britain. Britishness was also reinforced and affirmed via new historical and cultural objects and fascination. Apparently, this new curiosity and vision of history contributed significantly to the emergence of a national imagination and, subsequently a national identity.


Military History Historical Imagination Intellectual Milieu Royal Asiatic Society Turkish Nation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Doğan Gürpınar 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Istanbul Technical UniversityUK

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