The ethnic composition of Ottoman ship crews and the "Rumi challenge" to Portuguese identity

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Abstract

Although the confrontation between the Ottoman and Portuguese navies in the sixteenth-century Indian Ocean is commonly described as a struggle between "indigenous Muslims" and "European intruders," in reality the seafarers of both fleets were overwhelmingly Mediterranean in origin. Yet despite these shared origins, the crews of Ottoman and Portuguese ships nevertheless conceived of themselves in different ways: the Portuguese as part of a blood-based "nation," and the Ottomans as part of a cosmopolitan "empire." And ultimately, this difference profoundly influenced relations between the two powers. Since the Ottomans, unlike any of the indigenous peoples of the Indian Ocean, were so obviously racially and ethnically similar to the Portuguese, their self-confident cosmopolitanism posed a threat to the underpinnings of Portuguese ethnic solidarity, just as the strength of their navy posed a threat to Portuguese hegemony at sea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-144
Number of pages23
JournalMedieval Encounters
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007

Keywords

  • Ethnic Identity
  • Indian Ocean
  • Maritime history
  • Ottomans
  • Portuguese

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