When the English Levant Company was granted a potentially lucrative monopoly of trade with the Ottoman Empire by Elizabeth I in 1581, it could not have known that with this privilege would come the burden of funding and providing, for more than two centuries, Britain's entire diplomatic representation at the Sultan's court and throughout the extensive Ottoman territories. The Company's trading posts were to become effectively the forerunners of the United Kingdom's embassies and consulates in the region today. In this book, Christine Laidlaw, whose interest in the Levant Company arose during her career in the British Diplomatic Service, studies the small communities of Britons who lived and worked in the Levant at the three principal factories established by the Company at Istanbul, Izmir and Aleppo. She focuses on the eighteenth century, a period of slow but steady decline which immediately preceded the onset of the imperialist era in the region, and which would culminate in the Company's demise in 1825. The detail of the Levant trade itself and the merchants who engaged in it has been recorded by others. This book is concerned rather with those occupants of the factories whose prime purpose was not direct involvement in commerce, but whose collective presence supported and facilitated 'the Turkey trade'. This supporting cast of officials, clergymen, physicians and accompanying families provided structure and order to these far-flung communities, and served to maintain within them some semblance of the English polite society of the period. Christine Laidlaw examines their contribution and, using both official records and contemporary personal accounts, records their perceptions and brings to light some of the personal joys and tragedies which they experienced in their association with the Company.
British in the Levant
Trade and Perceptions of the Ottoman Empire in the Eighteenth Century