The Whispers of Cities: Information Flows in Istanbul, London, and Paris in the Age of William Trumbull (OUP Oxford, December 2013)
Shortlisted for the Longman-History Today Book of the Year Prize. Turkish translation forthcoming.
In recent years, global historians have painted an impressionistic picture of what they call the 'connected world' of the seventeenth century. Inspired perhaps by the globalised world in which they write, scholars have emphasised how the circulation of people, objects, and ideas linked the distant reaches of the early modern world. Yet for all the advocates of such a 'connected history', we are only beginning to make sense of what global connectedness meant in practice in the lives of ordinary people.
To this end, The Whispers of Cities explores interactions between early modern Europe and the Ottoman Empire through the kaleidoscope of communication. It does so by focusing on how information flows linked Istanbul, London, and Paris in the late seventeenth century. Because individuals were at the heart of communication, the book offers a micro-historical reading of the experiences of Sir William Trumbull, English ambassador to Istanbul from 1687 to 1692. It follows Trumbull as he was transformed from a civil lawyer and state official in London to a European notable at the heart of Ottoman social networks in Istanbul. In this way, The Whispers of Cities reveals how information flows between Istanbul, London, and Paris were rooted in the personal encounters that took place between Ottomans and Europeans in everyday communication. At the intersection of global history and the history of communication, therefore, the author argues that worlds of information tied Europeans to their Ottoman counterparts long before the age of modernisation, as news, stories, and even fictions transcended linguistic and confessional boundaries and connected people across Europe and the Mediterranean world. What emerges here is a picture of globalization that is as much about networks, flows, and circulation as it is about the imperfections, asymmetries, and unevenness of connectedness in the early modern world.