In 1716, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's husband Edward Montagu was appointed British ambassador to the Sublime Porte of the Ottoman Empire. Despite discouragement from friends that feared for her safety, she accompanied her husband to Turkey and wrote an extraordinary series of letters that recorded her experiences as a traveller and her impressions of Ottoman culture and society. These letters, addressed primarily to her sister and to Alexander Pope, became the basis for a highly crafted text that was not published until 1763.
Like many women who rebelled against gender conventions, Montagu was the target of vicious attacks from her contemporaries. But her status as a woman traveller is crucial to her distinctive perspective, and one can argue that her letters offer a feminist alternative to much of the orientalist writing of both the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This edition includes a broad selection of related historical documents on Turkey, women in the Arab world, Islam, and "Oriental" tales written in Europe.