The third annual joint event with the Levantine Heritage Foundation: Dr Gemma Masson

On Tuesday evening we were delighted to host a lecture by Dr Gemma Masson entitled Upstairs, Downstairs: British Diplomatic Travellers in 18th Century Istanbul. This was the third time that we have joined with the Levantine Heritage Foundation to host an event and we look forward to many more.

Dr Gemma Masson with members of the Levantine Heritage Foundation and Dr Alison Ohta

Here is a brief outline of the talk by Dr Masson:

“The eighteenth century in the Ottoman Empire was marked by a shift in the methods of international interaction. A very definite change from warfare and aggression towards trade and diplomacy has been observed by historians. While such interactions existed and are well documented in the earlier centuries it was in the 1700s that such exchanges became the primary currency of internal relations. This brought a great number of Europeans to Istanbul in a diplomatic role, as opposed to one of leisure or business, and has led to some extensive collections of primary literature detailing the experiences and observations of these travellers. There is a temptation to be very rigid in our classification of who constitutes a diplomatic traveller and, as such, to limit ourselves as historians to only the official despatches, personal correspondence and diaries of the official ambassadors.

However, in my opinion, the definition of a diplomatic traveller can and should be extended to include the family, staff and whole retinue of the ambassadors and it is this wider classification that I will be applying in this paper. With that in mind I have chosen to present three, very different travellers here all of whom came to Istanbul in the eighteenth century as part of three different diplomatic households. My aim here is to try and show that members of the diplomatic household still had an experience solely dictated by their diplomatic status and so do not qualify to be classified as any other kind of traveller. Secondly, I hope to illustrate that information on diplomatic life in Istanbul can be gathered from other members of the household aside from the ambassador as, the experiences of others can show different facets of the diplomatic experience which may not be considered obvious or noteworthy to the ambassadors themselves.”


The talk can be viewed in full on the LHF YouTube channel:


Thanks to Dr Masson for sharing her research and to Craig Encer from the LHF for organising the event.


April Events

We are now registering for online attendance for all events in April, if you wish to attend any (or all!) please email Matty Bradley at