Photo of Professor Gerald Maclean

Professor Gerald Maclean

Research interests

Born in Ontario, I studied at Jesus College, Cambridge and then wrote a MPhil thesis on Blake's Vala manuscript at the University of Waterloo before spending some years teaching in Greece and Libya while writing an unpublished novel. After teaching horseback riding in England, I wrote a doctoral dissertation on the vernacular backgrounds to Dryden's political poetry at the University of Virginia, taught briefly at Queen's University, Kingston, the University of Southern California, and Cornell before settling in Detroit as Professor of English at Wayne State University (1983-2006).  Before coming to Exeter I was Anniversary Professor at the University of York, and currently hold visiting professorial appointments at King Abdul-Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey.

I have lectured and conducted research in Algeria, Canada, Greece, Lebanon, Libya, Romania, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and the USA, and have been visiting professor at Bogazici University, Istanbul, and the Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies here at Exeter.  In 2004 I was elected Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2006. I am a member of the AHRC Peer Review College and a Member of Council of Turkish Area Study Group UK.

Interview with Gerald MacLean [ 1:06:37 ] Hide Player | Play in Popup | Download

Most recently, with Nabil Matar, I co-authored Britain and the Islamic World, 1558-1713 (Oxford University Press, 2011), a detailed study of cross-cultural influences that will extend from the Muslim Mediterranean to the Safavid and Mughal Empires, using Arabic and Ottoman sources to challenge British views of themselves and the Islamic world.

Britain and the Islamic World 1558-1713 - Gerald Maclean, Nabil Matar

Shortlisted for the BRISMES prize, 2013 

 ‘This is a book centred on the enterprise of five generations of British seamen and merchant-venturers exploring the Islamic East. It is a well-known story of British achievement but, instead of staying within the stately mansion of this progression towards glory and empire, the two authors keep throwing open the windows to offer us fresh insights, new horizons of inquiry, as well as skipping out through a back door to give us a witheringly close examination of the fabric. This is an uplifting, intriguing and inquiring survey, which leaves the reader grateful for the breadth and depth of their scrutiny.’ - Barnaby Rogerson, The Independent.

‘Through masterful use of a variety of original sources, including plays, books, pamphlets, archival records, and illustrations, MacLean and Matar make an innovative and persuasive argument. They demonstrate the diversity and complexity of English perceptions of both Muslims and Islam during this vital period in the development of English culture and its early relations with the peoples and religions of the Islamic world. A variety of scholars, students, and general readers will learn much from this accessible and well-informed volume.’- Michael Fisher, American Historical Review

‘The constant drawing upon, and in many cases the relentless misinterpretation of, history makes the need for rigorous, scholarly assessments of relations between the western and Islamic worlds all the more vital. In their work Britain and the Islamic World 1558-1713, Gerald Maclean and Nabil Matar provide a timely reminder of the complexities of these relationships and demonstrate how some attitudes have remained with us since the early modern period … It was an era of cooperation and conflict. Extensive end-notes provide a wealth of additional information and sources for the interested reader, vital in a book whose only significant flaw is its brevity. Gerald Maclean and Nabil Matar’s work is vital for understanding not only Islam during the period 1558-1713, but for deepening understandings of western relations with the Islamic world today.’- Dr Andrew Broertjes, Limina: Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies

'Nineteenth century observers would say that the British Empire was an Islamic one; be that as it may, before Empire there was trade- and lots of it. Nabil Matar and Gerald MacLean's book, Britain and the Islamic World, 1558-1713 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), though, goes beyond trade- there was also lots of curiosity, in Britain and abroad, about the strange new peoples and products  beginning to move more freely across the world than ever before. It is this aspect of British-Muslim interaction – (or more accurately interactions; the Islamic world was vast and encompassed a dizzying diversity of peoples and cultures) that Matar and MacLean emphasise- the wondering, bemused, gleeful, fascinated, at times despairing accounts of travellers, diplomats, traders –and pirates and their captives- as they sought to convey their impressions of the new worlds they encountered.' -Dhara Anjaria,New Books in South Asian Studies

I have published widely on the literature and cultural history of the long seventeenth century in England, focusing on the politics of poetic form, print culture, and the editing of seventeenth-century texts. My first book, Time's Witness: Historical Representation in English Poetry, 1603-1660 (1990) examined the development of political poetry during the civil war and republic.

Time's Witness: Historical Representation in English Poetry, 1603-60

 ‘MacLean’s present revisionist analysis of history and poetry, and history in poetry, is a significant contribution to the new literary history… MacLean’s critical strategies are both varied and challenging… A significant strength of MacLean’s approach throughout is its solid grounding in the writings and responses of the period. The book is informed by the language and strategies of contemporary literary theory, especially new historicism … while remaining focused on the poetry and the history with which the poetry is concerned. Time’s Witness, in other words, displays a laudatory grasp of poetry largely unknown even to specialists in seventeenth-century poetry, and an acute sense of historical events and meanings.’ – Paul Parrish, Modern Philology

This project led me to edit the English poems on the Restoration (The Return of the King, Etext Center, 1999-2004) and to commission and edit Culture and Society in the Stuart Restoration: Literature, Drama, History (1995) for Cambridge University Press. 

Culture and Society in the Stuart Restoration

‘In Culture and Society in the Stuart Restoration: Literature, Drama, History, Gerald MacLean has collected thirteen admirable essays by literary critics and historians that collectively take up the question of what makes Restoration culture and society different from earlier and later periods.’ – Milton Quarterly

‘The high level of scholarship now being produced is well represented in Gerald MacLean's new collection of essays....The book as a whole is well-presented..." - D.R. Woolf, Dalhousie Review

‘This entertaining collection of essays accomplishes two significant feats: it offers a strong set of individual pieces on particular late seventeenth-century writers that, when read together, invite one to speculate more generally on the ways in which 'the restoration' has been delineated and investigated by different academic disciplines....Culture and Society in the Stuart Restoration handsomely delivers on its opening promise to cause us to think more deeply about the ways in which individuals respond to dramatic national changes and the ways we study them.’ - Margaret J. M. Ezell, Modern Philology

I have also published on editorial theory, gender studies, feminist deconstruction, Marxist theory, and the critique of Orientalism.  With Donna Landry I co-authored Materialist Feminisms (Blackwell, 1993) and co-edited The Spivak Reader (Routledge, 1996) and The Country and City Revisited (Cambridge UP, 1999).

Materialist Feminisms

During the early 1990s I became increasingly interested in the literary, cultural and historical intersections between the Islamic East and the Christian West during the early modern period, most particularly English and British attitudes towards the Ottoman Empire and Muslim world. 

From experiences travelling in Turkey and the Middle East, I published two pieces of travel writing that appeared in collections published by Eland, the foremost London publisher of travel-writing: the internationally acclaimed Meetings with Remarkable Muslims (2005) and Syria Through Traveller's Eyes (2006).

Meetings With Remarkable Muslims "The emphasis in Meetings with Remarkable Muslims is on our shared humanity. Most of the 'remarkable Muslims' in this anthology aren't remarkable in their achievements – rather, they are extraordinary in their ordinary humanity …. The love and compassion displayed leaves an indelible impression. This is indeed a remarkable book, conveying the diversity and humanity of Muslims with style and grace. It proves that if we overlook, or look down on, the ordinary, we diminish ourselves and the world." Ziauddin Sardar, The Independent

"Every political leader in the Western world should be forced to read this book." Nick Smith, Geographical

"Much of the book is breathless, exciting narrative, and I have rarely come across such compelling travel writing. The collection sheds light on the dynamics that animate contemporary Muslim societies, but each piece is gripping in its own right ... no reader can fail to be moved by the stories in this book." Gamal Nkrumah, Al-Ahram
















My next academic monograph explores the ways early travellers challenged traditionally hostile views of the ‘Turks.' The Rise of Oriental Travel: English Visitors to the Ottoman Empire, 1580-1720 (2004; 2006) appeared in Turkish translation in 2006.


' unusually detailed and well-placed account of some fascinating cross-cultural encounters in the period between Shakespeare and Milton...MacLean's approach is refreshingly direct; he treats his four authors not as pawns on a chessboard of theory, but as human beings whose characters and experiences are of intrinsic interest...this is a fascinating and stimulating book, written with enthusiasm, skill, and an appealing sense of human sympathy.' - Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph

'The Rise of Oriental Travel is a beautifully written monograph on the attitudes which sixteenth - and seventeenth - century Westerners revealed as they explored the Ottoman Empire.' - Times Literary Supplement

In 2004, with support from the British Academy, I organised a major international conference here at the Insittute for Arab and Islamic Studies on the eastern, Islamic influences on the European Renaissance, that resulted in Re-Orienting the Renaissance: Cultural Exchanges with the East (2005).


'9/11 has made it a matter of urgency for scholars to rethink the history of the interactions between Christianity and Islam. The essays in this volume demonstrate that, in addition to the rediscovery of Antiquity, cultural and commercial exchanges between Islam and western Europe played a decisive role in the making of the Renaissance. In a series of carefully-researched and well-crafted chapters, the authors reveal an intricate world of artistic, economic, and intellectual exchange. In sum, Re-Orienting the Renaissance does just that: it gets the reader thinking in new ways about an ostensibly familiar subject, with particular attention to the history of the relationship of the Renaissance to the Islamic cultures of the period.' - John Jeffries Martin, Professor and Chair, Department of History, Trinity University, USA

'Scholars of the Renaissance period are already familiar with comparative analyses of Italy and Northern Europe. The East-West re-orientation proposed in this volume is a welcome, indeed overdue step. Its detailed case studies will undoubtedly stimulate deeper understanding of Ottoman history and help in assessing the complexity of the existing relationships between the Christian West and the Muslim East, still too dominated by cultural stereotypes.' - Alessandro Arcangeli, Associate Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern History, University of Verona, Italy

'This is a remarkable collaboration by lucid, expert, independent-minded scholars working towards a common theme. That theme - the East's contact with the West - is often misrepresented. In this book each of the writers re-presents that exchange - and gets it right. Re-orienting the Renaissance is a step-change in writing about history, literature and art. It works by resonance, with one essay carrying over into the next. There are no awkward transitions, no glitches. This is the way that complex and contentious subjects should be presented, in their many facets. And, together, they make up a single, coherent and compelling argument. This is a major work, extremely accessible on the multifarious connections between 'Islam' and 'Christendom'.' - Andrew Wheatcroft, Director, The Centre for Publishing Studies, University of Stirling, UK

My next book, Looking East: English Writing and the Ottoman Empire before 1800 (2007) describes the massive cultural influence of the Ottoman Empire on the emergence of English and British imperial ambitions and appeared in Turkish translation in 2009.


'Looking East is a major contribution to the scholarship on English- and Scottish- interaction with the Ottoman world. The picture Gerald MacLean presents is far more complex and interesting than the somewhat simplistic image of East-West relations usually given by Edward Said and his followers. Instead of the old model of a straightforward binary dualism, MacLean has followed in the footsteps of Nabil Matar to present a Mediterranean world where what he calls 'mutuality, dialogue and reciprocity' predominate and where a significant number of Englishmen Turn'd Turk. This scholarly, surprising, erudite and quizzically humourous book looks set to change the way we think about early British interaction with the Muslim world.' - William Dalrymple, author of In Xanadu and From the Holy Mountain

In 2006, I organised a major international conference in London that brought together scholars, journalists and creative writers including Maureen Freely, Mehmet Ali Birand and Elif Shafak to discuss how Turkey is represented in the contexts of contempoary problems and debates. Writing Turkey: Explorations in Turkish History, Politics and Cultural Identity appeared later that year.

Modern Turkish Writing Gerald Maclean Maureen Freely Elif Shafak



"Writing Turkey isn't just essential reading for anyone interested in Turkey's past, but a primer, too, on the questions that surround Turkey's future. Inspired and intelligent, often shocking and always delightful, each of these essays deals with the live issues that confront us all, and together offer crucial insights into the uses of history itself" -Jason Goodwin, author of Lords of the Horizons andThe Janissary Tree








In 2009, shortly after arriving at Exeter, I organised a major international conference held at the Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies with support from the British Academy on 'Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives.'  I introduced and edited selected papers in a volume that appered in 2011.

Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives


Research collaborations

UNESCO OPENS EVLIYA CELEBI CULTURAL ROUTE: 12 October 2013. The Evliya Celebi Way was formally opened at a ceremony held in the town of Babasultan in Bursa Province by the Mayor of Bursa, Recep Altepe, and UNESCO representive Dr Mehmet Kalpakli.  In 2009, the Evliya Celebi Way was charted and explored by Professor MacLean and a team of equestrians and cultural historians - including Professor Donna Landry (University of Kent), Ercihan Dilari (Akhal Teke Equestrian Centre) and Dr Caroline Finkel (independent scholar, Istanbul).