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Dragomans, tattooists, artisans: Palestinian Christians and their encounters with Catholic Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Publication Illustration
Jacob Norris
Journal of Global History
Year of Publication

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the presence of European Catholic actors in the Ottoman empire dramatically increased, particularly in the Palestinian provinces. The city of Jerusalem and its surrounding hinterland, referred to here by its Arabic name, Jabal al-Quds, witnessed a particularly intensive Catholic presence owing to its sanctified religious status.

This article examines the ways in which the local Arabic-speaking Christian population of Jabal al-Quds interacted with these European Catholic actors. It situates these encounters within the wider scholarship on missionary encounters and cross-cultural interactions in the Mediterranean world, arguing that global historians need to pay greater attention to the inequalities embedded in many of these relationships and the frequent episodes of violent conflict they gave rise to.

By inverting the standard Western gaze on Jerusalem and looking at these encounters from the inside out, the article seeks to restore local actors as important players within the global Counter-Reformation, albeit within a context of subjugation, conflict, and stymied mobility.