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

October 30, 2020
God's Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World

“A stunning work of global history. . . . Alan Mikhail offers abold and thoroughly convincing new way to think about the originsof the modern world. . . . A tour de force.” ―Greg GrandinLong neglected in world history, the Ottoman Empire was a hub ofintellectual fervor, geopolitical power, and enlightenedpluralistic rule. At the height of their authority in the sixteenthcentury, the Ottomans, with extraordinary military dominance andunparalleled monopolies over trade routes, controlled moreterritory and ruled over more people than any world power, forcingEuropeans out of the Mediterranean and to the New World.Yet, despite its towering influence and centrality to the riseof our modern world, the Ottoman Empire’s history has for centuriesbeen distorted, misrepresented, and even suppressed in the West.Now Alan Mikhail presents a vitally needed recasting of Ottomanhistory, retelling the story of the Ottoman conquest of the worldthrough the dramatic biography of Sultan Selim I (1470–1520).Born to a concubine, and the fourth of his sultan father’s tensons, Selim was never meant to inherit the throne. With personalcharisma and military prowess―as well as the guidance of hisremarkably gifted mother, Gülbahar―Selim claimed power over theempire in 1512 and, through ruthless ambition, nearly tripled theterritory under Ottoman control, building a governing structurethat lasted into the twentieth century. At the same time,Selim―known by his subjects as “God’s Shadow on Earth”―fosteredreligious diversity, welcoming Jews among other minoritypopulations into the empire; encouraged learning and philosophy;and penned his own verse.Drawing on previously unexamined sources from multiplelanguages, and with original maps and stunning illustrations,Mikhail’s game-changing account “challenges readers to recalibratetheir sense of history” (Leslie Peirce), adroitly using Selim’slife to upend prevailing shibboleths about Islamic history andjingoistic “rise of the West” theories that have held sway fordecades. Whether recasting Christopher Columbus’s voyages to the“Americas” as a bumbling attempt to slay Muslims or showing how theOttomans allowed slaves to become the elite of society whileChristian states at the very same time waged the horrors of thetransatlantic slave trade, God’s Shadow radically reshapes ourunderstanding of the importance of Selim’s Ottoman Empire in thehistory of the modern world.16 pages of color illustrations; 40 black-and-whiteillustrations