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The portrayal of the Ottomans in the Spanish and Austrian Netherlands of the Habsburgs (seventeenth and eighteenth century): printed materials, opinions and imaging of the Ottomans

The theme of the Ottomans was in the Spanish and Austrian Netherlands a common topic in media such as celebrations, printed matter, sermons, etc. A study on media and communications in the Spanish and Austrian Netherlands on the Ottomans can be enlightening for how the imagery proceeded for the identification processes in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, exposing one’s own culture by mirroring it to other cultures. The analysis of the opinion-forming role of the Ottomans in these media indeed exposes tensions at the authoritative institutions (e.g. the role of ecclesiastical and secular authorities). It also shows how the Ottomans were perceived and what the historical context was for of these perceptions . This research proposal examines which parties and with what motives the theme was used in the (primarily printed) media of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: What images were sketched on the Ottomans? Was that portrayal diverse, depending on the kind of media? Was the theme used by the governing bodies of the Spanish and Austrian Netherlands as propaganda to divert attention from internal problems?


Using themes such as the Moors, the Saracens and the Ottomans in the media in Europe is a recurring phenomenon. Does the imaging in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries continue on what was originally presented about the Moors and the Saracens and later on the Ottomans (from the sixteenth century) or are there significant differences? Was the theme of the Ottomans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a theme of current events or were there other underlying reasons? Did these motives determine the outlined Ottoman image? What messages were communicated? The underlying theory for these questions is strongly influenced by the study of Orientalism by Edward Said and the long debate that ensued. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries must have been a crucial period in the modification of the Ottoman image. In the seventeenth century the predominant and stereotype showed a portrait of the “bloodthirsty” Turk who threatened the Christian West as a “common hereditary enemy” and as a “power from hell.” In the eighteenth century the “dreaded Turk” has become a weakened and to-the-West-inferior power, whose exotic nature still appealed to the imagination, but certainly was no more fear-inspiring. Increasingly, there was a picture of the Ottomans as an ordinary, undersized foe of which the non-Western features were easily borrowed for mocking purposes. However, those features at the same time stimulated the curiosity of an ever wider audience. The sketched portrait of the Ottoman as a ‘man’ was subject to the media, the organization, the public and the region. It was, in other words, anything but a clear picture where the opinion-forming role of the media was fundamental.

Date:1 Oct 2010  →  8 Jun 2017
Keywords:Ottoman, Habsburg, Turk, Austrian Netherlands, Spanish Netherlands, News, celebrations
Project type:PhD project