In 1570, after numerous plots and assassination attempts against her, Elizabeth I of England was excommunicated by the Pope. It was the beginning not only of the well-known identification of England with heroic Protestantism, but - which is almost entirely neglected by historians - of an English alignment with Islamic powers, and of cultural, economic and political exchanges with the Islamic world of a depth not again experienced until the modern age. England signed treaties with the Ottoman Porte, received ambassadors from the kings of Morocco and shipped munitions to Marrakech in the hope of establishing an accord which would keep the common enemy of Catholic Spain at bay. This awareness of the Islamic world found its way into many of the great English cultural productions of the day - especially, of course, Shakespeare's Othello and The Merchant of Venice.
Less well known is that in 1599 Thomas Dallam, who made the organ for King's College in Cambridge, was sent to Istanbul to play in front of Sultan Mehmed and Sir Anthony Shirley was at the court of the Savafid Shah Abbas the Great; the following year the Moroccan ambassador, Abd al-Wahid bin Mohammed al-Annuri, spent six months in London with his entourage. This Orient Isle shows that England's relations with the Muslim world were far more extensive, and often more amicable, than we have ever appreciated, and that their influence was felt across the political, commercial and domestic landscape of Elizabethan England. Jerry Brotton, one of the UK's leading experts on cultural exchange, gives this neglected history the fullest study it has ever received.
This Orient Isle by Jerry Brotton was published by Penguin Books Ltd in February 2016. The ISBN for This Orient Isle is 9780241004029.