Andrei Pippidi, Visions of the Ottoman World in Renaissance Europe (Hurst/Columbia University Press, 2013)
Andrei Pippidi follows ideas of the Ottoman Empire in Eastern Europe from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries and ties the roots of these images to patterns in Western intellectualism. A pathbreaking book, his volume reconsiders the writing of Erasmus, Luther, and Machiavelli—individuals we consider intellectuals, yet who largely did not travel or have direct contact with the Ottoman Empire. Nor were these figures well-disposed to the Ottomans’ predecessor, the Byzantine Empire, whose fall presented them with an intellectual conundrum: what could explain the impressive advance of the Ottomans across the Balkans and the inability of Christian Europe to hold the line against them? Christians also felt compelled to incorporate this significant new threat into their vision of the world, to rationalize and unravel its origins. These issues and events spawned a common market of ideas in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as Europeans debated and represented the new Ottoman age. Pippidi’s analysis frequently echoes trends in today’s debates concerning the ongoing relationship between Turkey and greater Europe, and the struggle of Western societies to assimilate descendants of the empire.