Dr Helen Pfeifer

University Lecturer in Early Ottoman History
Dr Helen Pfeifer

I am a historian of the Ottoman Empire, with an interest in understanding the empire within larger Islamic, European, and global contexts. I received my Ph.D. from Princeton University before joining the University of Cambridge as Lecturer in Early Ottoman History in 2014.

My research focuses on empire, the circulation of culture, and the management of human diversity in the early modern period. My current book project, Empire of Salons: Conquest and Community in 16th-Century Ottoman Lands, studies the social and cultural consequences of the Ottoman incorporation of the Arab world in 1516-7. Based on both Arabic and Ottoman Turkish sources, it shows how Ottoman literary salons contributed to a shared sociability that eased communication across the diverse and sprawling empire.

I am also working on two projects studying early modern cross-cultural exchange more broadly: a collaborative project on manuscript circulation in the Mediterranean, and an investigation of forms of sociability shared across Eurasia.

My research has been supported by the American Historical Association, the Beinecke Scholarship, the Fulbright Association, the German Orient-Institut in Istanbul, and the American Research Institute in Turkey.

I am happy to supervise students in all aspects of Ottoman history from 1300-1800. I also welcome projects examining European relations with the Ottoman Empire.

In part I of the Tripos, I currently lecture and supervise primarily for paper 16 (‘Early modern Europe, 1450-1760’) and paper 21 (‘Empires in world history’). In part II, I contribute to paper 14, ‘Material culture in the early modern world’.

Beginning in fall 2015, I will be offering an Mphil course entitled, ‘Global early modernity?’ exploring various approaches to studying the early modern period from a global perspective. I will also be offering ‘Historians as writers’, a graduate-level workshop allowing students to reflect on and develop their writing.


Tags & Themes


Christ's College
St Andrew's St
Cambridge CB2 3BU