Sir Noel Malcolm’s captivating new book, Useful Enemies: Islam and the Ottoman Empire in Western Political Thought, 1450-1750
(Oxford University Press, 2019), tells the story of Western European fascination with the Ottoman empire and Islam between the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the latter half of the 18th century. This beautifully argued, erudite monograph traces a textured encounter between two civilizational complexes and exposes the dynamic role that the Ottomans played in intra-European political and cultural struggles. Useful Enemies contends that ideas about the Ottomans were active ingredients in European thought, and were used to “shake things up, to provoke, to shame, to galvanise.” Discussions of Islam and the Ottoman empire were thus bound up with mainstream thinking in the West on a wide range of important topics - power, religion, society, and war. These Eastern enemies were not just there to be denounced. They were there to be made use of, in arguments which significantly contributed to the development of Western political thought.
Sir Noel Malcolm is a Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, University of Oxford. His main research interests are in British and European early modern history. Sir Noel is one of the foremost scholars of Thomas Hobbes. His other interests concern Western knowledge of the Ottoman empire and Balkan history.
Vladislav Lilić is a doctoral candidate in Modern European History at Vanderbilt University. His research focuses on the place and persistence of quasi-sovereignty in late Ottoman and post-Ottoman Southeastern Europe. Vladislav’s other fields of interest include the socio-legal history of empire, global history of statehood, and the history of international thought. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.