Anglo-Turkish Society: Assoc Prof. Kaya Şahin to give talk on “peerless” Sultan Süleyman

The Anglo Turkish Society continues with its series of fascinating expert talks into key aspects of Turkish life and history, this time inviting author and academic Kaya Şahin to present a talk on the extraordinary life of Sultan Süleyman, who ruled the Ottoman Empire between 1520 and 1566.

Süleyman’s domain extended from Hungary to Iran, and from the Crimea to North Africa and the Indian Ocean. While he was engaged in bitter rivalries with the Catholic Habsburgs in Europe and the Shiite Safavids in the Middle East, he also presided over a multilingual and multireligious empire that promised peace and prosperity to its subjects.

Behind the public façade of might and glory, Süleyman led a complicated life. He grew up with an overbearing father whose legacy was both an advantage and a burden. Defying established practice, he married a concubine named Hürrem.

Towards the end of his life, he had to overcome both debilitating sickness and the agitations of his sons to remain on the throne.

Şahin, whose book ‘Peerless among Princes: The Life and Times of Sultan Süleyman’ (2023, Oxford University Press) is the first scholarly biography of Süleyman in English since 1944, will examine this globally renowned figure who made a profound impact on the known world during the sixteenth century, assessing Süleyman’s achievements and failures in the context of his contemporaries and the world they lived in, and their legacies.

About the speaker Kaya Şahin

Kaya Şahin is Associate Professor of History and the Executive Associate Dean of the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University, USA.

As a historian, Şahin specialises in the early modern Ottoman Empire, with a particular interest in history writing, governance, religious/confessional identity, and ceremonies and rituals.

Assoc Prof Kaya Şahin

At its peak, the Ottoman Empire expanded over three continents, and played an active role in global political and economic struggles as it ruled over several ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. To do justice to the depth and breadth of the historical experiences faced by individuals and communities who entered the empire’s orbit, Şahin particularly emphasises comparative and regional/global perspectives.

His first book, ‘Writing History at the Ottoman Court: Editing the Past, Fashioning the Future’ edited by H. Erdem Cipa and Emine Fetvaci, focusses on the life and writings of an Ottoman career bureaucrat, Celalzade Mustafa (ca. 1490-1567). Through Mustafa, Şahin is able to chart the rise of a new Ottoman bureaucracy and the creation of an Ottoman imperial culture that saw itself in direct competition with the Habsburgs and the Safavids. Şahin argues that Ottoman attempts at empire-building in the first half of the sixteenth century reflected the general trends of a world-historical moment, and that the Ottomans have to be evaluated together with a host of other polities extending from Tudor England to Mughal India and beyond.

Şahin views early modern Eurasia as a relatively unified ecological, political and cultural zone; and early modernity as a crucial period that allows us to critically re-evaluate modernity. He uses a comparative approach in his latest book, which offers a reassessment of the reign of the Ottoman ruler Süleyman, which, among other things, revisits the political, cultural, and military encounters between the Ottomans and the Safavids in the sixteenth century.

His new book ‘Peerless among Princes: The Life and Times of Sultan Süleyman’ comes a decade after his first book on this significant Ottoman ruler: ‘Empire and Power in the Reign of Suleyman: Narrating the Sixteenth-Century Ottoman World’ (2013, Cambridge University Press).

About the event organiser

The Anglo-Turkish Society was founded in 1953 with the object of strengthening and developing the historical ties of friendship and understanding between the peoples of Britain and Turkiye. Four of the original seven members of the Society’s management Council are current members.


Title: Peerless among Princes: The Life and Times of Sultan Süleyman – Kaya Şahin

Date: Tuesday 03 October 2023

Time: 6pm to 8pm

Venue: Royal Anthropological Institute, 50 Fitzroy Street, London W1T 5BT

Admission: £10 (free for ATS members)

Tickets: you can buy online from Eventbrite – click here

More info: click here to visit the website of the Anglo-Turkish Society.