Mary Wortley Montagu was the wife of the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in the early 18th century and spent two years accompanying him to Constantinople. During those travels, she corresponded regularly with a number of people, describing her experiences and observations.
Jean-Baptiste Tavernier was a French gem merchant and traveller in the 17th century. He traveled extensively for business to Persia and India, making six voyages between 1630-1668. At the request of King Louis XIV of France, in 1675 he wrote up his experiences as Les Six Voyages de Jean-Baptiste Tavernier.
Thomas Glover was born in Constantinople to an English father and Polish mother and was raised there, being fluent in Turkish, Greek, Italian, and Polish (as well as English). He served as secretary to two successive English ambassadors to Constantinople before being installed as ambassador himself in 1606. He was recalled to London in 1611 under something of a cloud, perhaps due to interceding in Moldavian royal politics, but evidently it blew over.
Ottaviano Bon belonged to an aristocratic family in Venice and was active as a diplomat. I’m having trouble finding a clear biography of him through online sources. He has no English Wikipedia entry, and the Italian Wikipedia entry is brief and sketchy.
The Flemish scholar Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq was named an ambassador to the Ottoman Empire by the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I. From around 1554 through 1562 he was in Constantinople, primarily to negotiate a border treaty. But Busbecq was deeply interested in manuscripts, in natural history, and in describing his experiences in an extensive correspondence with friends, which he later collected and published.
This post is part of a series of primary source materials illustrating how Europeans perceived, reported, and discussed female homoeroticism in the Ottoman Empire during the 16th to early 18th centuries. I’ll give a larger context for why this is a period of interest for European interactions with a non-European, non-Christian culture that could not be dismissed easily as not being of equal power an importance to their own.
Reading pre-modern literature in terms of gender and sexuality requires abandoning, modern sexual categories, even when continuities can be identified. The chapter begins with a review of major historians that shaped the study of medieval (homo)sexuality. It discusses the complicated structure of medieval, thinking around gender and sexuality. Discussion of specifics, primarily focuses on male homoerotic relations with brief nods to female relations.
In the later 18th century, there is a conflict in the English imagination between the foreign, dangerous, “female friends,” personified by the image of sapphic Marie-Antoinette, and the positive image of such celebrated English female couples such as Ponsonby and Butler, Seward and Sneyd. Hester Thrale personified this conflict, expressing deeply negative views of sexualized female relationships, but praising and even engaging in intimate (but not overtly sexual) relationships between women, such as Frances Barney.
This article looks at the women’s religious educational communities founded in the early 17th century by Mary Ward, the School of Blessed Mary. As an English woman setting up Catholic institutions during a period when Catholicism was out of favor in England, and as a woman becoming a prominent religious leader in the Catholic Church at a time when women were not encouraged to take leadership positions, the hierarchies of both sides found Mary Ward problematic.
Drama often draws on contemporary dynamics to depict historic stories, and in this article Brown uses the relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and her female courtiers to examine the depiction of Cleopatra’s court in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. And, given the focus of this collection, it particularly looks at the types of alliances within the court between a queen and her waiting women. Brown’s position is that these relations strengthened Elizabeth’s position and goals, while Cleopatra is depicted as weak in this department.