Law in China or Conquest in the Americas: Competing Constructions of Political Space in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire


This study relates two Ottoman books from the 1580s, the New Report (Hadîth-i Nev) on the conquest and colonization of the Americas by the Spaniards and the Law-Book of China (Terjüme-i Qânîn-nâme-i Chîn ve Khıtây ve Khotan), to contemporary Ottoman politics and to each other, arguing that there were competing constructions of political space in the early modern Ottoman Empire. The Law-Book of China represents a constitutionalist political view aimed at limiting the powers of the monarch and asserted by a traditionalist argument based on an invented tradition, which claims that the laws enacted by the founding fathers were meant to be for posterity. The New Report adopts an experientialist approach, making a case for experience that leads to knowledge and for boldness that leads to conquest and represents a royalist response to the constutionalist view articulated in the Law-Book of China.