Episode 31: Who are the Turks?

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Carter Vaughn Findley, Humanities Distinguished Professor in History, The Ohio State University

Turkish merchant in Samarkand (now in Uzbekistan). Prokudin-Gorskii collection, c. 1905-1914.

Over the past two thousands years, the Turkic peoples have migrated and expanded from a small group of pastoral nomads in what is now western China to form Islam’s longest lasting empire, six modern nation-states that bear their names, and large minorities across Eurasia. But … who are the Turks? Do they even form a coherent social category? Where did they come from? And what makes them “Turk”ish?

Guest Carter Vaughn Findley has spent a career working on the Turkic peoples and their history, and helps us trace their long migration from the Gobi to the Bosphorus, adapting, absorbing, and transforming themselves and the societies they interact with along the way.

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Episode 30: Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past & Professor, Department of History
Guest: Denise A. Spellberg, Professor, Department of History

TJQIn 2006, Keith Ellison, a newly elected congressman from the state of Minnesota, and the first Muslim elected to Congress, took his oath of office on a Qur’an from Thomas Jefferson’s personal library. Why did one of the founding fathers own a Qur’an?  What was his opinion of it? And how did it influence his ideas about concepts of religious liberty that would eventually be enshrined in the Constitution?

Guest Denise A. Spellberg, author of a new book called Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders, sheds light on a little known facet of American history: our earliest imaginings of and engagements with the Islamic world, and comes to some surprising conclusions about the extend of religious freedoms envisioned by one of the key founding fathers.

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