Thursday, February 16, 2006

From Aleppo to Jerusalem

Oxford educated Henry Maundrell (1665-1701) was elected through his uncle's influence to the post of Chaplain at the Levant Company in Aleppo (modern day Syria) in 1695.

In 1697 he went on a 3 month horseback pilgrimage to the Holy Land, passing through Tripoli, Damasacus, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Latakia, among other places. Maundrell kept a precise yet dispassionate diary of his travels - a factual itemization of the antiquities of the middle east.
" Maundrell carefully recorded meticulous descriptions of castles, mosques, churches, fortresses, aqueducts, wells, rivers, mountains, plains and trails, each complete with measurements, directions, distances, colors, textures and weights."
The intention was to circulate copies of his diary among his clerical peers to curry favour with the church heirarchy. But Maundrell's uncle urged his nephew to compile his diary into a book. Although it was published posthumously in 1703, A Journey From Aleppo to Jerusalem At Easter A.D. 1697 quickly established itself as a classic of both travel writing and middle eastern facts. Previous european books about the middle east are said to be notable for their fanciful and inaccurate descriptions.

So influential was the Journey that 7 editions in 4 languages had been released by the middle of the 18th century and it remains a primary historical source in many subject areas relating to the middle east. If you have any interest in middle eastern history the sources below are well worth perusing.

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