BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    Narratives of medieval Syriana: imported objects, diasporic presence and melancholia (1291–1516)

    Myerson, Eleanor (2022) Narratives of medieval Syriana: imported objects, diasporic presence and melancholia (1291–1516). PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

    Final Thesis Copy.pdf - Full Version

    Download (3MB) | Preview


    In this thesis I explore the narratives told about and told by the commodities recorded on the ships of the Bristol merchant, Robert Sturmy, whose 1458 voyage to the Levant ended in disaster. I analyse each item separately, with chapters on sweet wines, spices, silks, jewels, alum and coins. I term this category of goods ‘medieval Syriana’ in recognition of the particular identity and impact which these objects had in medieval England. The narrative of Syrian origin acted both as commercial and religious branding: contradictory motives which were often inextricable. I show that these imported goods were viewed and used in ways which evidence the pervasive presence of translated Arabic science in medieval English culture. Analysing textual, visual and material sources, I identify a European Christian mode of approaching these objects which nonetheless witnesses the significant presence of alternate perspectives in premodern England. The chronological start of my study is the Mamlūk recapture of the last crusading settlement of Acre in 1291, and its end is 1516, before the Ottoman conquests of Egypt and Jerusalem, which signalled the end of Mamlūk rule over the Holy Land. As such, my study takes place in the aftermath of the collapse of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem. The same commodities which became medieval Syriana had originally been transported from the Frankish territories: for many, these goods continued to be overlaid with the recollection of their original significance, as signifiers and representations of Christian settlement in the Holy Land. Borrowing the terminology of theorist Paul Gilroy, I consider late medieval English culture as suffering from the condition of post-Acre melancholia. The produce of interfaith contact in Mediterranean marketplaces was reimagined as the loot of crusading conflicts, lending a material basis to fantasies of resettlement and reconquest.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2022 14:17
    Last Modified: 05 May 2024 00:10


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item