The Life and Times of Sultan Selim I

Episode 472

Sultan Selim I is well known for the conquests he pursued that brought places like Cairo, Damascus, and Mecca into the Ottoman Empire. But in this episode, we're exploring the life and times of Selim I in an entirely new light by placing the Islamic world at the center of the momentous events of the turn of the 16th century. We talk with historian Alan Mikhail about his new book God's Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World. We discuss the events and developments that led to Selim's rise as well as the ignored centrality of Islam in the imagination of the early European explorers of the Americas and thinkings of the Protestant Reformation.  

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Contributor Bios

Alan Mikhail is Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History at Yale University. He is the author of four books and over thirty scholarly articles that have received multiple awards in the fields of Middle Eastern and environmental history, including the Fuat Köprülü Book Prize from the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association for Under Osman’s Tree: The Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and Environmental History and the Roger Owen Book Award of the Middle East Studies Association for Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt: An Environmental History. His new book is God's Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World.
Sam Dolbee is a lecturer on History and Literature at Harvard University. His research is on the environmental history of the late Ottoman Empire told through the frame of locusts in the Jazira region.

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Episode No. 472
Release Date: 18 August 2020
Recording Location: New York and Somerville, MA
Audio editing by Sam Dolbee
Music: Blue Dot Sessions, "Fifteen Street"
Special thanks to Chris Gratien
Bibliography and images courtesy of Alan Mikhail


Sultan Selim practicing archery. Hünername, Topkapı Palace Museum Library, H. 1523, f. 217a.

Selim's coronation. Hünername, Topkapı Palace Museum Library, H. 1523, f. 201a. 

Battle of Raidaniyya, 1517. Selimname, Topkapı Palace Museum Library, H. 1597-8, f. 235a 

Sultan Selim the Grim Bridge. Işık Fıdancı, Alamy Stock Photo

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