[Crossposted from New Books in History] You’ve probably heard of the “Age of Exploration.” You know, Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, Columbus, etc., etc. But actually that was the European Age of Exploration (and really it wasn’t even that, because the people who lived in what we now call “Europe” didn’t think of themselves as “Europeans” in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but no matter…). There were, however, other Ages of Exploration.
Giancarlo Casale‘s wonderful book is about one of them, one you haven’t heard of. It’s called, appropriately enough, The Ottoman Age of Exploration (Oxford UP, 2010) and is about–you guessed it–the Ottoman Age of Exploration. Like their “European” counterparts, the Ottoman explorers were pursuing two interests: spices and salvation. The former were found (largely) in Southern Asia and the latter was of course in Mecca. To ensure access to both, the Ottomans built–nearly from scratch–an large, ocean-going navy and set out to dominate the Indian Ocean. And they almost did it, though they faced fierce competition from the Portuguese, Safavids, and Mughals. Read all about it in Casale’s terrific book.