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The Life of a Text: Carsten Niebuhr and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aġa's Das innere von Afrika

Abstract : ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aġa, a Tripolitan ambassador, and his entourage including two African slaves arrived in Copenhagen to renegotiate peace with the Nordic states of Denmark and Sweden. Muslim missions were a common and fairly regular phenomenon of the 18TH century Mediterranean cross-cultural diplomacy.1 Cases of Ottoman, Persian, Moroccan or Maghreb envoys coming to Europe to negotiate conditions for the maintenance of peace against a payment for their ruler were not uncommon.2 But there is more than this to the story of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aġa's four-month stay in Copenhagen. In the course of his trip, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aġa met and befriended the last living member of the Danish expedition to Arabia, Carsten Niebuhr. The conversations between the scientist, the Tripolitan ambassador, and his two African slaves that summer were transformed twenty years later into a printed account comprising five texts, which constitute one of the rare sources about the Central Sahara and Sahel in the second half of the 18TH century.3 This paper is a story of connectivity, of circulation of information, and of the cross-cultural co-production of knowledge. Connectivity in the early * I am indebted to a lot of people who helped me decipher this complex story and work with various languages and scripts. I would like to thank for their invaluable help
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Contributor : Camille Lefebvre <>
Submitted on : Monday, November 23, 2020 - 11:40:34 AM
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Camille Lefebvre. The Life of a Text: Carsten Niebuhr and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aġa's Das innere von Afrika. Benedetta Rossi; Toby Green. Landscapes, Sources and Intellectual Projects of the West African Past, 6, Brill, 2018, African History, 978-90-04-38018-9. ⟨halshs-03019172⟩



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