#033 – How the Ottomans shaped the Modern World

with Alan Mikhail

Selim Piri Reis Podcast

Sultan Selim I and Piri Reis’s world map (1513) – collage based on Wikimedia commons


The Ottoman Empire was a key force in the making of the early modern world. Growing from a regional to a global player and to the most powerful Muslim empire at the turn of the 16th century, the role of the Ottomans has been largely neglected by Eurocentric narratives about the Atlantic explorations and the Reformation. This episode is based on Alan Mikhail’s new work “God’s Shadow: Sultan Selim, his Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World”. In the first part, we discuss the trajectory of Selim I, one of the most important sultans of the House of Osman, and the conflict with his father Bayezid. His life spans from military campaigns in Eastern Anatolia to crucial victories against the Mamluk Empire, which allowed Selim to officially become Caliph and leader of Sunni Islam. In the second part, we open a perspective on the global implications of imperial rivalries in the Mediterranean. Re-centering the Ottomans sheds light on how reactions to a powerful Muslim empire drove Columbus’s and other conquistadors’ worldview, which in turn lingered on in US-American self-perceptions and othering of Muslims and Native Americans.


Alan Mikhail is Professor of History at Yale University, where he also chairs the Department of History. He is a leading historian of the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East with a focus on Egypt in the early modern period. He has published grounbreaking studies on environmental and global history (see bibliography below) and his newest monograph, discussed in this podcast, is published by Liveright-Norton.





To cite this episode: Alan Mikhail, Andreas Guidi (2020): How the Ottomans shaped the Modern World. The Southeast Passage #033, 18.08.2020, http://thesoutheastpassage.com/podcast/mikhail-ottomans-selim-modern-world/





The instrumental compositions in the background are a kind courtesy of Hasan Kiriş.

1. Tanbur Taksimi (Selim’s birth)

2. Etraflıca Yürümek (Selim and Bayezid)

3. Beyatiaraban Taksim (Selim and Piri Reis)

The excerpts from “God’s Shadow” are read by Harriet Walsh.


Further reading:

By Alan Mikhail

Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt an Environmental History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

“The Ottoman Empire and the Imperial Turn.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 54, no. 04 (2012): 721–45 (With Christine M. Philliou).

The Animal in Ottoman Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

“Ottoman Iceland: A Climate History.” Environmental History 20, no. 2 (2015): 262–84.

Under Osman’s Tree: The Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and Environmental History. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2017.


Çıpa, H. Erdem. The Making of Selim: Succession, Legitimacy, and Memory in the Early Modern Ottoman World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017.

Delaney, Carol Lowery. Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem, 2012.

Diouf, Sylviane A. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas. New York: New York University Press, 1998.

Gomez, Michael A. Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the Americas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Gomez, Michael Angelo. Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Peirce, Leslie P. The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. Studies in Middle Eastern History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.


The Southeast Passage
The Southeast Passage
#033 - How the Ottomans shaped the Modern World