Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of History

Content Description

1 online resource (ix, 297 pages) : PDF file, illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Warren Roberts

Committee Members

John Monfasani, Karl K Barbir


Aleppo, Cross-cultural, Jesuits, Missions, Southwest Asia

Subject Categories

European History | Islamic World and Near East History


For several decades historians have struggled with the dynamics of cross-cultural contact and the creation of perceptions of the "other". Detailed studies of the European image of the Islamicate world during the pre-modern period rarely analyze why and how these representations were formed. Through the analysis of Jesuit missionary correspondences made during the first half of the seventeenth century, this study aims to articulate the variables that impacted the development of Jesuit attitudes toward the people and environment of Greater Syria. Jesuit written sources conveyed the challenges to the mission that arose from a multiplicity of sources, including from fellow Europeans, lay and religious alike. Their greatest challenge however was to understand, and insert themselves in, the cultural and doctrinal traditions of the indigenous population, Christian and Muslim. The tensions and opportunities experienced by the Jesuits, combined with their individual personalities and group mentalities, formed the basis of their views and impressions of Bilad al-Sham. Yet, equally as important in the understanding of the development of Jesuit perceptions, is the recognition that the medium of correspondence (letters, reports, or published works) had recognizable impact on the articulation of Jesuit experiences. As this study demonstrates, the level of objectivity in the expressions of the Jesuits depended on the form of communication they used. In their letters to their fellow priests in Europe, they showed ideological and cultural detachment, whereas in their published works they tended to include embellished stories and tropes familiar to their reading audience in Europe. Moreover, this study is an entrée into Jesuit mentalities and how they acted in and reacted to the prevailing political, social, and, cultural circumstances in Greater Syria between 1625 and 1660.