After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000

Sanjay Subrahmanyam writes:

In the year 1283 of the Hegiran era, or 1866 of the Common Era, the Ottoman traveller Abdur Rahman bin Abdullah al-Baghdádi al-Dimashqi arrived in Brazil on the imperial corvette Bursa to begin a three-year visit. He later published an account of his experiences, entitled Maslihat al-gharib bi-kull-i amr ‘ajib (‘The delight of the traveller concerning all that is marvellous’). It is an important text for a number of reasons, including the light it sheds on the status of Islam among slaves of West African origin in 19th-century Brazil; but also because it allows us to reflect on what exactly empires are and were.

(LRB 12 February 2009)

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