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The Travel of Ideas in the Age of Steam and Print: The Ottoman Caliphate versus Wahhabism and Mahdism

dinsdag 7 juli 2020
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden

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This thesis argues that the age of steam and print—more specifically, increased access to the steamship, railway, printing press, and telegraph—played a crucial role in the extended dynamic challenges of the ideas of the Caliphate, Wahhabism and Mahdism vis-à-vis each other. It aims to illustrate how these three concepts took on global dimensions by spilling over Ottoman borders and how they affected the Ottoman centre’s reactions to these developments after the revolution in communications and transportation in the second half of the nineteenth century. Ideas about the Caliphate, Wahhabism and Mahdism had already existed for a long time. However, their spheres of influence had remained limited to a certain area and timeframe, not attaining a global scope until the advent of the new age. The centuries-old Islamic concept of the Caliphate assumed a new global dimension under the banner of Pan-Islamism, and the Ottoman Caliphate claimed spiritual sovereignty over all of the multinational Muslim communities that lived under the control of various authorities, including the British, Dutch, Russian, and French empires. Wahhabism, as the ideology of a doctrine-oriented movement that came into being in the previous century but had remained local, spread all around the world in this new era and thus became a global concern for state rulers. Likewise, the Mahdi creed had existed throughout Islamic history but it became a widespread ideology in the case of the Sudanese Mahdi movement, garnering attention in distant lands and drawing in many Muslims in a short period of time.


  • Prof.dr. E.J. Zürcher 
  • Prof.dr. M.Ş. Hanioğlu (Princeton University)


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Maarten Muns, adviseur wetenschapscommunicatie Universiteit Leiden
071 527 3282

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