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‘This Orient Isle’

I have very much enjoyed listening to Radio 4’s abridged version of Jerry Brotton’s fascinating survey of the relationship between Elizabethan England and the Islamic world, particularly Morocco and Turkey – ‘This Orient Isle’

this orient isle
‘This Orient Isle’ by Jerry Brotton, R4 Book of the Week, Omnibus 3/4/16

It would seem that Lady Mary’s fascination with Turkey had quite a hinterland, and one that was similarly favourable and cordial. Henry VIII had clothes made in the ‘Turkish’ style, and there were regular visits made by travellers and merchants between the two countries. Words like ‘turquoise’ and ‘sugar’ entered the English language, and Englishmen found themselves being offered concubines from the Sultan’s harem. The Islamic ‘other’ featured regularly in writing, with sixty books produced during the period recounting journeys and adventures in the ‘East’, and references to Turks and Turkey or the Levant in drama became commonplace, often shorthand either for sensuality or heathenism, or a racy combination of the two.


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