William Lithgow of Lanark's Travels in the Ottoman Lands, North Africa and Central Europe, 1609-21
'An Intrepid Scot' makes an important new contribution to the growing literature on the perceptions of the Islamic world and the 'Orient' in early modern Europe, at the same time as illuminating the attitudes of a Protestant from Northern Europe towards the Catholic South. In this book Edmund Bosworth looks at the life and career of William Lithgow, a tough and opinionated Scots Protestant, who had a seemingly insatiable Wanderlust and who managed to survive various misadventures and near-death experiences in the course of his travels. These took him through a dangerously Catholic Southern Europe to a dangerously Muslim Greece and Istanbul en route for his pilgrimage destination of the Holy Land; on another occasion he went through North Africa and returned circuitously via Central and Eastern Europe; but he was stopped in his tracks whilst endeavouring to reach the court of Prester John in Ethiopia, when he fell into the hands of the Spanish Inquisition and narrowly escaped a horrible death. Lithgow was one of several men of his time who journeyed eastwards, some as far as Persia and India, but unlike many others, he has not been the subject of a special study. Bosworth now places him within the context of the present interest in perceptions of the Islamic world and of the 'Orient' and 'Orientals' in early modern Europe. In addition to the entertainment of the travel narrative, the book shows how one Westerner of the time interpreted the alien East for his readers, and how the Ottoman Empire and its apparently unstoppable might both fascinated and struck fear into the hearts of those outside it.