MESA Book Awards
Marc David Baer
University of California, Irvine
2008 Albert Hourani Book Award Co-Winner
Honored by the Glory of Islam: Conversion and Conquest in Ottoman Europe
Oxford University Press
Marc Baer has opened a window into a much neglected period of Ottoman history – the 17th century reign of Sultan Mehmed IV – to examine a theme of perennial interest: the conversion of Balkan Jews and Christians to Islam. He inverts the conventional approach to the subject by examining the motives and thinking behind those who proselytized rather than exploring the convert’s decision to embrace Islam. Based on an impressive array of Ottoman manuscript and archival sources, in a host of different countries, Baer traces the influence of charismatic Muslim reformers on the Ottoman sultan to engender a culture of conversion that accompanied territorial conquest and impressed Islam on the urban landscape of the Balkans. What emerges from Baer’s study is the image of a dynamic, expansive Muslim society, in which wars were waged to amass converts, in which churches and synagogues were confiscated and turned into mosques, and religious pluralism and inequality were rife. Baer gives a vivid sense of how this expansionist machine worked, the constraints built into it, and how its architects understood it as a form of enlightenment. The result is a most innovative contribution to Ottoman history and Islamic studies alike.