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Agents of Empire: Knights, Corsairs, Jesuits…
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Agents of Empire: Knights, Corsairs, Jesuits and Spies in the… (2015)

by Noel Malcolm

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Inspired by the hunt for an obscure manuscript that essentially marks the beginning of Albanian historiography, Malcolm provides one with a wide-ranging examination of social and military interaction on the political line between Venice and the Ottoman Empire from the perspective of an extended family of Albanian noblemen. While the subtitle invokes "knights, corsairs, Jesuits and spies" the meat of this book is really the practice of day-to-day diplomacy by the men who found their affairs straddling the lines of conflict. I rather liked this work but for the uninitiated you'll at least want to have read a popular account of the battle of Lepanto first. ( )
  Shrike58 | Aug 7, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 024100389X, Hardcover)

In the second half of the sixteenth century, most of the Christian states of Western Europe were on the defensive against a Muslim superpower - the Empire of the Ottoman sultans. There was violent conflict, from raiding and corsairing to large-scale warfare, but there were also many forms of peaceful interaction across the surprisingly porous frontiers of these opposing power-blocs. Agents of Empire describes the paths taken through the eastern Mediterranean and its European hinterland by members of a Venetian-Albanian family, almost all of them previously invisible to history. They include an archbishop in the Balkans, the captain of the papal flagship at the Battle of Lepanto, the power behind the throne in the Ottoman province of Moldavia, and a dragoman (interpreter) at the Venetian embassy in Istanbul. Through the life-stories of these adventurous individuals over three generations, Noel Malcolm casts the world between Venice, Rome and the Ottoman Empire in a fresh light, illuminating subjects as diverse as espionage, diplomacy, the grain trade, slave-ransoming and anti-Ottoman rebellion. He describes the conflicting strategies of the Christian powers, and the extraordinarily ambitious plans of the sultans and their viziers. Few works since Fernand Braudel's classic account of the sixteenth-century Mediterranean, published more than sixty years ago, have ranged so widely through this vital period of Mediterranean and European history. A masterpiece of scholarship as well as story-telling, Agents of Empire builds up a panoramic picture, both of Western power-politics and of the interrelations between the Christian and Ottoman worlds.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 02 Jul 2015 06:28:16 -0400)

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"In the late sixteenth century, a prominent Albanian named Antonio Bruni composed a revealing document about his home country. Historian Sir Noel Malcolm takes this document as a point of departure to explore the lives of the entire Bruni family, whose members included an archbishop of the Balkans, the captain of the papal flagship at the Battle of Lepanto--at which the Ottomans were turned back in the Eastern Mediterranean--in 1571, and a highly placed interpreter in Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire that fell to the Turks in 1453. The taking of Constantinople had profoundly altered the map of the Mediterranean. By the time of Bruni's document, Albania, largely a Venetian province from 1405 onward, had been absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. Even under the Ottomans, however, this was a world marked by the ferment of the Italian Renaissance. In Agents of Empire, Malcolm uses the collective biography of the Brunis to paint a fascinating and intimate picture of Albania at a moment when it represented the frontier between empires, cultures, and religions. The lives of the polylingual, cosmopolitan Brunis shed new light on the interrelations between the Ottoman and Christian worlds, characterized by both conflict and complex interdependence. The result of years of archival detective work, Agents of Empire brings to life a vibrant moment in European and Ottoman history, challenging our assumptions about their supposed differences. Malcolm's book guides us through the exchanges between East and West, Venetians and the Ottomans, and tells a story of worlds colliding with and transforming one another"--… (more)

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