The ottoman "discovery" of the indian ocean in the sixteenth century

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Vasco da Gama's successful voyage around the Cape of Good Hope in 1497 has long been recognized as a major turning point in world history, marking the beginning of direct and continuous contact between the civilizations of Western Europe and the Indian Ocean. Much less well known to modern scholarship, by comparison, is the Ottoman Empire's rival and contemporaneous expansion into the lands of the Indian Ocean following Sultan Selim I's conquest of Egypt in 1517. Because the Ottoman state and the merchant communities of the Indian Ocean shared the same religion (Islam), most modern scholars have simply assumed that they also enjoyed a kind of de facto familiarity with one another long before the sixteenth century began. But in many ways, prior to the conquest of Egypt, the Ottomans were even less aware of the geography, history, and civilization of the Indian Ocean than were their contemporary Portuguese rivals. The subsequent development of direct contacts between the Ottoman Empire and the Indian Ocean thus represents a kind of Ottoman "discovery" of an entirely new part of the globe, closely resembling the much better-documented European discoveries of the same period. To understand how, let us fi rst briefl y compare the state of medieval Western and Islamic geographical knowledge of the Indian Ocean before the voyages of exploration, and consider where the Ottomans fi t into this overall picture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSeascapes
Subtitle of host publicationMaritime Histories, Littoral Cultures, and Transoceanic Exchanges
PublisherUniversity of Hawai'i Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)0824830274, 9780824830274
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007
Externally publishedYes


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