Eastern History with Western Eyes: E.A. Freeman, Islam and Orientalism

Morrisroe, Vicky L (2011) Eastern History with Western Eyes: E.A. Freeman, Islam and Orientalism. Journal of Victorian Culture, 16 (1). pp. 25-45. ISSN 1355-5502

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Abstract

E.A. Freeman is remembered today as a confident proponent of English superiority, whose historical writings were distorted by mid-Victorian prejudices in favour of the Aryan race. This perspective privileges some of Freeman's ideas and works above others, and obscures the complexities of his view of the past which only fully emerge through an examination of his two neglected works on the East: The History and Conquests of the Saracens (1856) and The Ottoman Power in Europe (1877). In analysing Freeman's obscure Oriental volumes this article uses the insights of Edward Said who argued that the West exploits the East according to contemporary exigency and consistently represents the Orient as ‘other’. It demonstrates that Freeman composed the Saracens and Ottoman Power in direct response to Britain's support of the Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War and Eastern Crisis, and re-arranged the past to represent the Turk as distinct from, and inferior to, the West. Freeman's account of the distinctiveness of the Orient, however, suggests the need to revise literature on Western approaches to the East which has assumed that antagonism towards Islam declined in the modern period, or was masked behind narratives that purported to be secular and objective but which continued to empower Europe and subjugate the Orient. Juxtaposing Freeman's narratives on Western and Eastern history, I argue that his association of Christianity with European progress and Islam with Eastern barbarism is key to understanding his deep fear of cultural contact with the Orient. Far from bolstering the strength and power of the West vis-à-vis the East, Freeman's account of the fearful barbarity of the Islamic Orient is underpinned by his belief in an anti-Christian, Judeo-Islamic, conspiracy that threatened the West with degeneration and recapitulation.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: E.A. Freeman; Islam; Orientalism; Ottoman power; Saracens; Edward Said; the East; REF2014 Submission
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Liberal and Performance Arts > Religious, Philosophical and Historical Studies
Research Priority Areas: Being Human - Past, Present & Future
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2015 09:58
Last Modified: 21 Jan 2016 16:42
URI: http://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/2587

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