The relationship between the Central European Reformation and the ‘Turkish Threat’ has been a well-covered subject in historical scholarship for decades. Recent books by Almut Höfert, Margaret Meserve, Charlotte Colding Smith and a number of other scholars have significantly added to our understanding of how European perceptions of an Islamic ‘other’ in the sixteenth century shaped western images of the Ottomans as well as early modern Christian Europe. Gregory J. Miller’s new book relies upon this strand of research. It presents an overview of sixteenth-century German dealings with and imaginations of the Ottomans and Islam by reformers and Catholics alike. Apart from the rather well-known fact that the Reformation influenced European images of the ‘Turk’, the author states in his introduction that these images of the ‘Turkish’ and Islamic worlds originated from Christian needs and were not always in accordance with the fragmented information coming in from the Ottoman realm. While the second chapter presents an overview of how Islam and the Ottomans were perceived in Christian Europe prior to the Reformation, chapter three focuses on the political and military conflicts over Hungary in the sixteenth century. The next part deals with the views of Martin Luther and his contemporaries concerning Islam and the Ottomans (notably on the Qur’an, the prophet Mohammed, and Muslim rites). Both Catholics and Protestants agreed that the ‘Turks’ were a threat that had to be fought. While Luther and his fellow reformers tended to see them within an eschatological framework, their Catholic opponents pursued an agenda of a worldly ‘Holy War’. Miller follows Almut Höfert in asserting that in the wake of the Reformation, Islam was increasingly considered a religious system of its own rather than just a Christian heresy. In many respects (including doctrine, rituals and ecclesiology) however, the Christian religion served sixteenth-century scholars as a template for their interpretation of Muslim beliefs. A separate chapter addresses historical and proto-ethnographical knowledge of the Ottoman Turks among scholars in the German lands of the sixteenth century. Sometimes the reader would like to learn more on exactly how particular bits of information were transmitted to Christian Europe. Unfortunately, there is little to no integration of a growing body of international research on converts, brokers and dragomans, or on the personal interactions and circulation of knowledge in the early modern Mediterranean. Chapter six (‘Holy Terror’) is dedicated to the real and imagined fears of ‘Turks’ and Islam among Germans. An admiration of Ottoman discipline and military success met with religious self-doubts. The ‘Turkish Threat’ was seen as the result of a lack of belief and true piety among Christians who allegedly focused on internal strife instead of uniting against a common enemy. As a solution, according to Miller, Catholics preferred the intervention of a powerful Holy Roman Emperor while Lutherans turned to God and the expected apocalypse. In an even more practical sense, chapter seven (‘Holy War and its Discontents’) discusses ideas of Christian missions among Muslims, as well as agitation through broadsheets, prayers, and other means of ‘spiritual warfare’. Perhaps the most important part of the book is a comparison of the printed captivity narratives by George of Hungary and Bartholomew Georgijevic, both quite influential in shaping a German image of the ‘Turks’. However, the very plausible statement from the introduction, namely that Germans, to a large extent, gathered their information on the Ottomans and Islam from these captivity narratives, still awaits a more thorough investigation. The book’s appendix contains English translations of George of Hungary’s treatise as well as translated selections from Bartholomew Georgievic’s work. Whilst they may perhaps be helpful for students, the translations lack any commentary. Miller’s book makes clear that coverage of topics related to the ‘Turks’ and Islam in Reformation Germany increased at times when a military threat seemed to come close. The dealings with the Ottomans and the Muslim world tended to become more investigative, focusing on religion and the historic origins of the ‘Turks’. At the same time, Protestant and Catholic theological authors never considered this an end in itself but rather put the Ottoman and Islamic danger into the service of confessional polemics. The book is an overview of the sixteenth-century perceptions of the Ottomans and Islam in the German lands. To some extent it rather summarizes research instead of presenting new findings. Unfortunately, some chapters rely quite heavily on outdated literature. What is problematic is that a number of recent and quite important works in German on the very topic of the book (such as Thomas Kaufmann’s ‘Türckenbüchlein’, or Johannes Ehmann’s Luther, Türken und Islam), as well as studies by Ottomanists, for instance on the Habsburg-Ottoman conflict in Hungary, have not been used. German-language quotes in the text and the bibliography are more often than not inaccurate, as are names of people, places and contemporary terminology (‘Skanderberg’, ‘Giovo’, ‘Reichstäge’, among many others). Several bibliographical references of primary sources in German and Latin are faulty. Nevertheless, the book contains useful information for English-speaking students of the subject. As far as particular details are concerned, it should be used with some caution. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the German History Society. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)
German History – Oxford University Press
Published: Sep 1, 2018
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