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Research on Imperial Russia’s contacts and connections with Eastern Orthodox communities in the Levant in the early nineteenth century aroused my interest in how Britain, that other edge of Europe, related to the Ottoman Empire during this tumultuous period. Traders, travelers, envoys, consuls, and others registered their impressions and observations in myriad writings, providing historians with a treasure trove for probing the Eastern Question, the nineteenth-century European dilemma of what to do with the surprisingly resilient Ottoman Empire, still possessing strategic lands and vital waterways in the Near East. Russian and British archival and printed sources widen our perspective on the history of the Eastern Question, transforming what many scholars have portrayed as a largely one-dimensional military, naval, and diplomatic subject into a multi-faceted and more animated picture, with strategic objectives intertwined with commercial, religious, and cultural endeavors. Manuscripts and archives, from Russian and British collections, reveal vivid stories on religion, trade, piracy, rebellion, and intrigue, allowing us to reconstruct the various interactions between the peoples who lived, traveled, traded, and served in the Ottoman Levant.


Originally published in the Modern Greek Studies Yearbook 24/25 (2008/2009): 39-72

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