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How an early European encounter with Islam broke stereotypes

A new book on the Ottoman Empire's relationship with contemporary Christians reveals a notable degree of cultural exchange and debate

By Sameer Rahim   June 2019

Exterior View Of The Twin Kiosk, Topkapi Palace. Image: PA

When Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453 it sent shock waves through Christendom. Pope Pius II made an emotional appeal for a new crusade: “we are being assaulted and murdered in Europe, that is, in our fatherland, our own home, our own residence.” Islam was regarded by one Florentine as a “sham” with Turks inclined to “debauchery and idleness.”

Yet as Noel Malcolm explores in this learned and fascinating account, once the Ottomans had established themselves as a…

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