Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Dennis Romano


Early modern Catholicism, Eastern Christianity, Mediterranean World, Ottoman Empire, Society of Jesus

Subject Categories

History | History of Christianity


In its first century, the Society of Jesus undertook numerous missions to the various Christian communities of the Ottoman Empire. In each instance, the Jesuits faced obstacles to their efforts to Catholicize the Christian Orient. Through an examination of the Jesuit experience in the early modern Ottoman Empire, I argue that particular historiographical trends concerning confession-building, early modern empire-building, and globalization need to be revised. First, rather than seeing the consolidation and alliance of religious practice and political allegiance as institutionally forced through negotiation and resistance, I argue that the unique experiences of individuals demonstrate how confessionalization was not just a question of institutional control or communal solidarity, but was driven by individual desires to conform to a confessional identity, a process I call self-confessionalization. Second, this project revises the historiographical notion of the Jesuits as participants in European imperialism. I argue against the notion that the Jesuits were willful agents of European monarchs and the papacy, but rather that the Jesuits were forced to negotiate their place between Rome and the Ottoman world. They had to amend their missionary efforts based on the circumstances in which they found themselves, and this often ran contrary to the wishes of their patrons. Finally, I argue that the Jesuits in the early modern Ottoman Empire were equal participants in a global process of group identity formation that centered on the development and maintenance of borders along the lines of religious confession and larger cultural identities. They participated in this global exchange on both individual and collective levels, demonstrating that the early stages of globalization depended upon cooperation between the major powers of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. In sum, the Jesuit missions to the Ottoman world lay bare the existence of intersecting processes of religious solidification, empire-building, and global interconnectedness that are all indicative of the collaborative character of the early modern world.


Open Access