God’s Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire and the Making of the Modern World

Alan Mikhail. Liveright, $39.95 (512p) ISBN 978-1-63149-239-6
In this revelatory and wide-ranging account, Yale historian Mikhail (Under Osman’s Tree) recreates the life of Sultan Selim I (1470–1520) and makes a convincing case for the outsize impact of the Ottoman Empire and Islamic culture on the history of Europe and the Americas. Tracking Selim’s rise from governor of a recently conquered frontier outpost on the Black Sea to his seizure of the Ottoman throne from his own father, capture of vast territories in the Middle East and North Africa, and investiture as caliph in 1517, Mikhail brings the era to vibrant life. Recasting Christopher Columbus as a Christian crusader bent on countering the Ottoman Empire’s territorial expansion and political and cultural dominance, Mikhail demonstrates how the push for European exploration of the New World actually weakened the Catholic Church, opening the door for Martin Luther and other reformers. Spotlighting the role Selim’s mother, Gülbahar, played in his political education and early administration, Mikhail also sheds new light on female political power during the era, and offers intriguing discussions on topics ranging from the Sunni-Shiite split to the discovery of coffee. Written with flair and deep insight, this thought-provoking account is both a major historical work and a genuine page-turner. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 04/24/2020
Release date: 08/18/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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