Oxford Scholarship Online, February 2020

For a recent webinar which is given by Simon Mills and chaired by Marina Rustow, Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Professor of History at Princeton University, please click the link here.

“A Commerce of Knowledge: Trade, Religion, and Scholarship between England and the Ottoman Empire, c.1600–1760 tells the story of three generations of Church of England chaplains who served the English Levant Company in Aleppo, Syria, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The book reconstructs the careers of its protagonists in the cosmopolitan city of Ottoman Aleppo, and brings to light the links between English commercial and diplomatic expansion and English scholarly and missionary interests: the study of Middle-Eastern languages; the exploration of biblical and Greco-Roman antiquities; and the early dissemination of Protestant literature in Arabic. Early modern Orientalism is usually conceived as an episode in the history of scholarship. By shifting the focus to Aleppo, A Commerce of Knowledge draws attention to connections between the seemingly aloof world of the early modern university and spheres of commercial and diplomatic life, tracing the emergence of new kinds of philological and archaeological enquiry in England back to a series of real-world encounters between the chaplains and the scribes, booksellers, priests, rabbis, and sheikhs whom they encountered in the Ottoman Empire. Setting the careers of its protagonists against a background of broader developments across Protestant and Catholic Europe, the book shows how the institutionalization of English scholarship, and the later English attempt to influence the Eastern Christian churches, were bound up with the international struggle to establish a commercial foothold in the Levant. It then argues that these connections would endure until the shift of British commercial and imperial interests to the Indian subcontinent in the second half of the eighteenth century fostered new currents of intellectual life at home.”

“Simon Mills is a Teaching Fellow in British and European History, 1500-1800 at Newcastle University. He received his PhD from Queen Mary University of London in 2009, and held a series of research fellowships at the Council for British Research in the Levant, Amman; the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge; and the Dahlem Humanities Centre, Freie Universität Berlin. Between 2014 and 2017, he was a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Kent. His interests lie in the religious, cultural, and intellectual history of early modern Britain and Europe, with a particular focus on the relationship between Europe and the Ottoman Empire, the histories of biblical and oriental studies, and the history of philosophy.”


Part I From Oxford to Aleppo
1 ‘Turky Labours’
Part II Building a Library in seventeenth-Century Syria
2 Edward Pococke in Aleppo
3 ‘A Rich Treasure of Manuscripts’: Robert Huntington in Syria
Part III The Making of an Antiquarian
4 ‘Factor to a Worthy Principle’
5 The Road to Jerusalem
6 Henry Maundrell and the Making of A Journey
Part IV Missions
7 The English Reformation in an Eastern Key
8 Thomas Dawes in Aleppo