For the Sake of Humanity? Diplomatic Knowledge production in eighteenth century Morocco and the Ottoman Empire

Speaker: Peter Kitlas

Title: For the Sake of Humanity? Diplomatic Knowledge production in eighteenth century Morocco and the Ottoman Empire

Date and Time: November 6th 2018, 4 pm.

Location: SOS 104

Abstract: Recently, historians of early modern diplomatic history have begun to reassess the field by shifting the focus from political relations between states to the experiences, thoughts, and activities of the individual diplomats involved. Within European studies these attempts have facilitated inquiries into unofficial diplomatic actors, non state-based information networks, and varying genres of diplomatic writing. Here, the goal has been to better understand the complex transition to modern, state-based diplomacy by a more thorough excavation of humanistic forms of knowledge production. While the main impetus in this effort has been to redress a historiographical gap from a European perspective, what does this mean when we look at diplomatic developments during the eighteenth century in the Ottoman Empire and Morocco?

In this paper, I argue that an attentive examination of Moroccan and Ottoman ambassadorial accounts offers a way to uncover alternate trajectories of diplomatic knowledge production in the early modern Mediterranean. Understanding these texts as a platform through which intellectual and bureaucratic debates were articulated reveals an elaborate conversation over what types of knowledge production were valued for diplomacy. This is particularly clear in several exchanges between Moroccan and Ottoman ambassadors during their respective missions to Istanbul and Morocco. My paper examines several of these exchanges that occurred in the mid-1780s as documented in the texts of two Moroccan ambassadors and two Ottoman ambassadors. How the authors portrayed their responsibilities and what information they included in their reports highlights their personal negotiation of this transition from humanism to statecraft as the standard mode of diplomatic knowledge production. By demonstrating this debate within a non-European context, I hope to elaborate a narrative of early modern diplomacy that includes a more diverse set of actors, intellectual currents, and approaches, complicating our understanding of the transition to modern statecraft based diplomacy.

Bio: Peter Kitlas is a Ph.D candidate at Princeton University in the department of Near Easter Studies. His research, which has been funded by the Social Science Research Foundation and Fulbright-Hays, focuses on diplomatic and bureaucratic developments in Morocco and the Ottoman Empire during the eighteenth century.