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Book Launch: This Orient Isle

7/04/16 7pm

Portrait of Muhammad al-Annuri, c. 1600, Anon.

Join author Jerry Brotton for the launch of This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World. Brotton will discuss the breadth of Elizabethan England’s cultural, economic and political relations with the Islamic world.  His book reveals a fascinating and relevant part of our national and international history which has been previously obscured. Professor Brotton will be in conversation with Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at SOAS, Wen-chin Ouyang.

In 1570, when it became clear she would never be gathered into the Catholic fold, Elizabeth I was excommunicated by the Pope. On the principle that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’, this marked the beginning of an extraordinary English alignment with the Muslim powers who were fighting Catholic Spain in the Mediterranean, and of cultural, economic and political exchanges with the Islamic world of a depth not again experienced until the modern age.

By the late 1580s hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Elizabethan merchants, diplomats, sailors, artisans and privateers were plying their trade from Morocco to Persia. The awareness of Islam which these Englishmen brought home found its way into many of the great cultural productions of the day, including most famously Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, and Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and The Merchant of Venice.

This Orient Isle shows that England’s relations with the Muslim world were far more extensive, and often more amicable, than has often been appreciated. It is a startlingly unfamiliar picture of part of our national and international history.

Jerry Brotton is Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary University of London. He is a regular broadcaster and critic as well the author of Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michelangelo, The Sale of the Late King’s Goods: Charles I and his Art Collection (shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction) and the bestselling A History of the World in Twelve Maps, which has been translated into twelve languages.

Wen-chin Ouyang is Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at SOAS, University of London. She was born in Taiwan and raised in Libya. She completed her BA in Arabic at Tripoli University and PhD Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia University in New York City. She taught Arabic language, literature and culture at Columbia University, University of Chicago and University of Virginia before she moved to London. She is interested in critical theory and thought as well as poetics and prosaics. She has written extensively on classical and modern Arabic narrative and literary criticism.

Image: Portrait of Muhammad al-Annuri, c.1600, anon. University of Birmingham Research and Cultural Collections.

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Book Launch: This Orient Isle
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