Secretaries and the Persian Cosmopolis in the Making of an Anti-Safavid Diplomatic Discourse

yavuz sultan i selim han

This paper focuses on the role of secretaries in shaping an Ottoman diplomatic discourse on the Ottoman conflicts with the Safavids and Mamluks during the reign of Selim I (r. 1512–20). Understandably, most scholarship on the diplomatic interactions of the Ottoman Sultanate with its eastern neighbours during these years has focused on the exchange of royal letters between the Ottomans and their principal adversaries. Significantly, throughout these years of tumultuous conflict, the Ottoman Sultanate also developed and maintained a much broader correspondence with other eastern polities and prominent notables in an effort to explain and legitimize its campaigns and conquests, to obtain logistical support and intelligence from local allies in Iran, and to initiate military alliances with other major powers designed to bring about a decisive end to the rule of the Safavid shah Ismail (r. 1501–24) in Iran. Crucially, secretaries, and especially Persian émigré secretaries, were central to the realization of these objectives. In their work within the Ottoman chancery, these secretaries drew upon their broad learning and mastery of epistolography (insha) in composing Ottoman royal letters, the form of which contributed significantly to their political or diplomatic function. In composing these documents, these émigré secretaries frequently drew upon decades of administrative experience within courts in Iran and rekindled their trans-imperial networks of scholarly and professional affiliation in an effort to mould a unified international discourse of anti-Safavid opposition and advance the quickly evolving and complex Ottoman ‘eastern policy’.  

Speaker: Dr Christopher Markiewicz (University of Birmingham)


Look forward to seeing many of you there!


Diplomacy in Early Modern Period 1400-1800

Contact name: Ruggero Sciuto

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Audience: Open to all