UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

British-Persian relations in the Sherley dossier (1598-1626) Jahanmardi, Maryam


As part of a more general interest in “Orientalism” and the history of East-West relations, a good deal of scholarly attention has lately been devoted to cultural, commercial and political interactions between the English and the Persians in the period of Britain’s main colonial expansion, from the eighteenth century onwards. This study joins a growing body of scholarship that concentrates on an earlier period and that is developing new theoretical paradigms for understanding East-West relations during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in terms of mutuality, dialogue and reciprocity (e.g. Matar, Maclean, Vitkus, Loomba, Burton, Barbour, and Dimmock). As emphasized by these critics, the power relations assumed by postcolonial theory are unsustainable in an early modern context, because it was only during the eighteenth century that Muslim empires such as those of the Ottomans and Persians became the subjects of colonial construction. In fact, in contrast to the imperialist views of the eighteenth century, the early modern English showed a great interest in cultural and commercial relations with the Islamic “Other”. In this thesis, I examine early modern England’s relationship with the Muslim East in general, and with Persians in particular, emphasizing the fluidity of intercultural relations. I also suggest that “Otherness” in the early modern period itself had a fluid and ambivalent nature. My study focuses on a dossier of texts relating to the travels of two Englishmen (the brothers Anthony and Robert Sherley) to Persia, which played a significant role in the formation of early modern English perceptions of Persia and of Persians. The main scene of the study lies between the first trip made by the Sherley brothers to Persia in 1598 and the publication in 1625 of Purchas His Pilgrims. These accounts are of two distinct types: narratives written by traveller-writers, and those composed by hired writers at home. Juxtaposing these two groups of accounts, I demonstrate the versatility of the representation of the Persian “Other” and point out how the writers’ predispositions and the changing politico-historical milieu influenced the construction of images of the Persians.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada