Dr John-Paul A. Ghobrial

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.

The Whispers of Cities: Information Flows in Istanbul, London, and Paris in the Age of William Trumbull

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.

  • Eastern Christianity in the Early Modern World

My current research involves a number of publications related to my interests in Eastern Christianity.  First, I am completing a book called Leaving Babylon, which is a study of Elias of Babylon who I first wrote about in articles in 2012 and 2014.  My work on the Stories of Survival project has given me the chance to work with an exciting community of scholars based here at Oxford and around the world.  This will result in the publication of two books that reflect my interests in microhistory, Middle Eastern history, and global history.  The first arises from a workshop on Christians and Jews in Ottoman Society, to take place in Oxford in July 2017, which will be published as a collection of essays in 2018.  The second is a set of reflections on microhistory and global history, The Space Between, which will appear in 2019.  Finally, I have recently published articles on a range of topics related to the social history of archives, microhistory, and religious materiality.  In general, I enjoy collaborating with other scholars and especially the opportunity to learn from others working in history, oriental studies, and archaeology.  

  • The Life and Hard Times of Solomon Negri: An Arabic Teacher in Early Modern Europe

  • The Archive of Orientalism and its Keepers: Rethinking the Histories of Arabic Manuscripts in Early Modern Europe

  • The Ottoman World of Abdallah Zakher: The Bindings of the Melkite Lonastery at Shuwayr in the Arcadian Library

  • The Secret Life of Elias of Babylon and the Uses of Global Microhistory

  • The Whispers of Cities

  • Stories never told: the first Arabic account of the new world

  • More

I would be willing to hear from potential DPhil students or any potential Masters students looking at topics related to my research or early modern global history more generally.                   


I currently teach:

Prelims

FHS Masters

Approaches

General History VIII, IX, XVIII

Selfhood in History for the MBEH

General History III

Further Subject on The Middle East in the Age of Empire

Dawn of the Global World for the MBEH

Conquest & Colonisation

   
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