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Virtual Event: Conversation: God's Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World
with Alan Mikhail and Annette Gordon-Reed
Long neglected in world history, the Ottoman Empire was a hub of intellectual fervor, geopolitical power, and enlightened pluralistic rule. At the height of their authority in the sixteenth century, the Ottomans, with extraordinary military dominance and unparalleled monopolies over trade routes, controlled more territory and ruled over more people than any world power, forcing Europeans out of the Mediterranean and to the New World. Yet, despite its towering influence and centrality to the rise of our modern world, the Ottoman Empire’s history has for centuries been distorted, misrepresented, and even suppressed in the West. Now Alan Mikhail presents a vitally needed recasting of Ottoman history, retelling the story of the Ottoman conquest of the world through the dramatic biography of Sultan Selim I (1470–1520).
Drawing on previously unexamined sources from multiple languages, and with original maps and stunning illustrations, Mikhail’s game-changing account “challenges readers to recalibrate their sense of history” (Leslie Peirce), adroitly using Selim’s life to upend prevailing shibboleths about Islamic history and jingoistic “rise of the West” theories that have held sway for decades. Whether recasting Christopher Columbus’s voyages to the “Americas” as a bumbling attempt to slay Muslims or showing how the Ottomans allowed slaves to become the elite of society while Christian states at the very same time waged the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade, God’s Shadow radically reshapes our understanding of the importance of Selim’s Ottoman Empire in the history of the modern world.
Alan Mikhail is widely recognized for his work in Middle Eastern and global history. He is the author of four books and over thirty scholarly articles that have received multiple awards in the fields of Middle Eastern and environmental history, including the Fuat Köprülü Book Prize from the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association for Under Osman’s Tree: The Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and Environmental History and the Roger Owen Book Award of the Middle East Studies Association for Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt: An Environmental History. His latest book is God’s Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World. In 2018, he received the Anneliese Maier Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for internationally distinguished humanities scholars and social scientists. His writing has appeared in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. He is currently a professor of history and chair of the Department of History at Yale University He lives in New York and New Haven, Connecticut.
Annette Gordon-Reed is the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and a Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. Gordon-Reed won sixteen book prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2009 and the National Book Award in 2008, for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton, 2008). In addition to articles and reviews, her other works include Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (UVA Press, 1997). Vernon Can Read! A Memoir, a collaboration with Vernon Jordan. (PublicAffairs 2001), Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History (Oxford University Press, 2002), a volume of essays that she edited, Andrew Johnson (Times Books/Henry Holt, 2010) and, most recently, with Peter S. Onuf, Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination (Liveright Publishing, 2016). Gordon-Reed was the Vyvyan Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at the University of Oxford (Queens College) 2014-2015. Between 2010 and 2015, she was the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She was the 2018-2019 President of Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. She is the current President of the Ames Foundation. A selected list of her honors include a fellowship from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, a Guggenheim Fellowship in the humanities, a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Award, the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, and the George Washington Book Prize, and the Anisfeld-Wolf Book. Gordon-Reed was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011 and is a member of the Academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. In 2019, she was elected as a member of the American Philosophical Society.