A Commerce of Knowledge: Trade, Religion, and Scholarship between England and the Ottoman Empire

04 November 2020

A Commerce of Knowledge, authored by Simon Mills, tells the story of three generations of Church of England chaplains who served the English Levant Company in Syria during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Reconstructing the careers of its protagonists in the cosmopolitan city of Ottoman Aleppo, the book investigates the links between English commercial and diplomatic expansion, and English scholarly and missionary interests: the study of Middle-Eastern languages; the exploration of biblical and Greco-Roman antiquities; and the early dissemination of Protestant literature in Arabic.

Early modern Orientalism is usually conceived as an episode in the history of scholarship. By shifting the focus to Aleppo, A Commerce of Knowledge brings to light the connections between two seemingly separate worlds, tracing the emergence of new kinds of philological and archaeological enquiry in England back to a series of real-world encounters between the chaplains and the scribes, booksellers, priests, rabbis, and sheikhs they encountered in the Ottoman Empire.

This webinar is chaired by Marina Rustow, Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Professor of History at Princeton University.

About the speaker:

Dr Simon Mills is Lecturer in Early Modern History at Newcastle University. He received his PhD from Queen Mary University of London in 2009, and held a series of research fellowships at the Council for British Research in the Levant, Amman; the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge; and the Dahlem Humanities Centre, Freie Universität Berlin. Between 2014 and 2017, he was a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Kent. His interests lie in the religious, cultural, and intellectual history of early modern Britain and Europe, with a particular focus on the relationship between Europe and the Ottoman Empire, the histories of biblical and oriental studies, and the history of philosophy. 

About the chair:

Marina Rustow is the Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Professor of History at Princeton University, Director of the Princeton Geniza Lab and Director of the Near Eastern Studies Programme. She is the author of ‘Heresy and the Politics of Community: The Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate’ (2008) and of ‘The Lost Archive: Finding a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue’ (2020). 

Webinar recordings

Watch the webinar on our YouTube channel or listen to the podcast.