Tordesillas and the Ottoman Caliphate: Early Modern Frontiers and the Renaissance of an Ancient Islamic Institution

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Abstract

This article revisits the question of the "Ottoman caliphate," the doctrine defining the Ottoman sultan as the universal sovereign and protector of Muslims throughout the world in addition to the territorial ruler of the Ottoman Empire itself. In existing scholarship, a wide gap divides those who describe this doctrine as a construct of modernity, with a history that goes back no farther than the late eighteenth century, and those who maintain a direct line of transmission from the earlier Abbasid caliphate to the Ottoman dynasty. This article proposes an "early modern alternative" to these two opposing narratives, which acknowledges a dynamic history of reinvention for the caliphate but locates its rebirth not in the period of colonial modernity but rather in the sweeping reconfiguration of space, time, and sovereignty ushered in by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)485-511
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Early Modern History
Volume19
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Indian Ocean
  • Khutba networks
  • Ottoman Caliphate

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