Module Catalogue 2022/23

HIS3335 : Europe and the Ottoman Empire, 1453-1798

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Simon Mills
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



The early modern period is often defined as the age in which Europeans explored and colonised the New World, and by the ‘shock of discovery’ resulting from the European encounter with the peoples and the civilisations of the American continents. Yet the geopolitics of recent decades, from Western military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the unfolding of the ‘Arab spring’, to debates over the role of Islam in Europe and North America, have increasingly led historians to turn their attention to the ongoing relationship between Europe and the Islamic world during the period between the fall of Byzantine Constantinople and the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt.

In this module, we shall dig beneath overly simplistic accounts of Western representations of an ‘Oriental’ East and clichéd notions of a ‘clash of civilizations’ to discover some of the myriad connections which linked Europe and the Ottoman Empire throughout this period. We shall explore some of the institutions – mercantile, diplomatic, ecclesiastical, and scholarly – which transcended the boundaries between Christian Europe and the lands of Islam; and we shall encounter the lives and the often fascinating careers of the various individuals who moved between these worlds: from Barbary corsairs to Eastern Christian travellers; from Flemish diplomats to Jesuit missionaries.

Through these keyholes, we shall begin to catch sight of the flows of people, objects, and ideas between early modern Europe and the Ottoman Empire. We shall uncover how these interactions were played out in the port cities of Europe and the Middle East, and we shall learn to ask unexpected questions about these encounters: how did an Icelandic Lutheran minister end up as a slave on the North-African coast? How did Arabic books come to be printed in the Netherlands? And how did Luther come to write a preface to the Qur'an? This will lead us, in turn, to rethink some of the broader narratives of early modern European history, and indeed to question whether ‘Europe’ and ‘the Ottoman Empire’ can meaningfully be separated, or whether, as some historians have tried to do, we ought to look instead for new models of a more integrated historiography.

Through a selection of weekly readings focused on primary sources, we shall survey a range of approaches to understanding the early modern period. These will include the more traditional methods of political and diplomatic history, as well as recent historians' attempts to describe processes of intellectual and cultural exchange and to analyze the significance of cross-cultural encounters. We shall question the relative advantages and disadvantages of these different methodologies: what, for example, are the benefits of the continuing urge to construct meta-narratives of Mediterranean history against the recent turn to biographical and ‘microhistorical’ approaches? How might the concept of an early modern ‘republic of letters’ be extended to include areas outside Europe? And how might a focus on the material aspects of the past provide further insight into the connections between Europe and the Ottoman Empire?

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus will cover a selection of the following themes: Europe and the Ottoman Empire: an Overview; Trade; Diplomacy; Warfare; Piracy and Captivity; Missions; Travellers; Statesmen; Scholars; Turquerie: the Ottomans in the European Imagination.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

A deep knowledge of the history of the commercial, diplomatic, military, and religious factors which structured the relationship between Europe and the Ottoman Empire between 1453 and 1798

A knowledge of the ways in which the European understanding of the Ottoman Empire was reflected in different works of travel writing, political theory, scholarship, theology, and material culture

An understanding of the complexities of European-Ottoman relations as they developed in different national and confessional contexts in early modern Europe

An understanding of the ways in which religious and political divisions within early modern Europe were integral to Europe’s relationship with the wider world

A comprehensive grasp of issues in historiography related to historians’ attempts to write early modern history beyond national boundaries

Intended Skill Outcomes

The ability to understand, to assess critically, and to use a wide range of historical evidence – including both written and visual sources

The ability to engage with and to assess critically a broad range of historical writing on European-Ottoman relations in different fields and in different national contexts

The ability to present historical arguments in written form to a high standard, using both primary sources, and engaging critically with relevant secondary literature

The ability to present ideas clearly and convincingly in oral presentations, and to respond engagingly to questions from your peers

The ability to contribute at an advanced level to discussions relating to the analysis of primary sources, the evaluation of secondary literature, and historiographical questions concerning European-Ottoman relations

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion651:0065:00Additional time for work on assessments
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading331:0033:00Core reading in secondary literature, approx. 3 hrs per week
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00Seminars: historical background and secondary scholarship
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00Seminars: primary sources
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities331:0033:00Structured reading to prepare for primary source seminars, approx. 3 hrs per week
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study361:0036:00Wider reading
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will introduce topics and provide expert orientation and exposition on a broad range of themes and issues (see 'Outline of Syllabus'), supplemented by the module reading list.

Seminars will provide students with the opportunity to practise the evaluation and interpretation of primary sources, and to think about how these sources can be integrated into broader historiographical arguments. The seminars will also be an opportunity to improve students’ skills in oral presentation, both through pre-prepared presentations, and through group discussion. Seminars will be student-led and facilitated by the module leader, and will hinge upon group discussion and debate about materials circulated in advance (primary sources and secondary 'core readings'). In the event that on-campus sessions need to be reduced, there is the capacity to hold live seminar discussions online and retain timetabled slots.

Structured guided learning will be at the core of the module. Students will be expected to devote the bulk of their time to reading – primary sources, the weekly ‘core readings’, and wider reading, using the reading lists in the module guide as a starting point. The seminars will provide further opportunities to reflect back on this independent study, discussing issues which arise, and deepening an understanding of the relevant historiographical debates.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M40Review essay of 1,000 words (including footnotes, but excluding bibliography)
Essay2A60Research essay of 2,500 words (including footnotes, but excluding bibliography)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Essay2MSource commentary of 500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The review essay (40%) will test the student’s ability to engage critically and deeply with the work of a practising historian, analyzing the use of primary source material and developing a sophisticated understanding of and response to the argument in relation to other relevant secondary literature and broader historiographical questions, and to write lucidly and confidently to a high standard.

The source commentary (Formative) will provide the student with an opportunity to practise the analysis of a primary source, consolidating preparatory work for the seminars, and developing skills required for the research essay.

The research essay (60%) is a response to a question from a pre-set list (although students will also be given the option to formulate their own questions in consultation with the module leader). It is intended to bring together the balance of knowledge and skills developed over the course of the module. It is an opportunity for students to apply their learning on an individual and independent basis, and will assess the student's ability both to analyse relevant primary source materials, and to integrate this analysis into a focused and clearly-expounded argument. In these respects, the research essay builds on the earlier assessment components.

All of the assessments for this module will be submitted and marked online.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.