'A Dangerous Man of the Enlightenment' : J.D. Åkerblad and Egiptology and Orientalism in times of revolutions
Title: 'A Dangerous Man of the Enlightenment' : J.D. Åkerblad and Egiptology and Orientalism in times of revolutions
Author: THOMASSON, Fredrik
Citation: Florence, European University Institute, 2009
Series/Report no.: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
I. The first part: The making of a diplomat and orientalist treats Åkerblad’s education, his initial diplomatic career and travels in East. The aim has been to give a broad background of what influenced both his political and scholarly choices and interests. Åkerblad became an accomplished oriental linguist in Uppsala. In 1783 he was sent to Constantinople to finish his education as an interpreter in the Swedish foreign service. After a short time in Turkey he was fluent in Turkish, Arabic and Modern Greek. Already before leaving Sweden in 1783 he had the ambition to travel in the East. There was a tradition of Swedes travelling in the Ottoman empire, they were not many, but Åkerblad was certainly inspired by them. II. The second part: 1789-1801: Political and professional change focuses on the decade following the French Revolution. Passing Paris in the spring of 1789 Åkerblad met the leading scholars in his fields. He missed the events of July by a couple of months. Åkerblad was initially an enthusiastic observer of the change in France. The fall of the French monarchy had immediate effects in both Constantinople and Stockholm. Sweden entered a period of political instability until 1809 when Finland was lost to Russia and a new constitution curtailed royal power. III. The third part: Reading Egyptian; deciphering the Rosetta inscriptions gives a detailed account of Åkerblad’s Egyptian work. It also describes his final diplomatic appointments in The Hague and Paris. Here the mainly chronological exposé of the first two parts is abandoned. Åkerblad’s entire work with the Rosetta inscription 1802-1815, as well as his continued Coptic and Egyptian research is treated. To give sufficient weight to what may be considered Åkerblad’s most important scholarly work it is necessary to treat his Egyptian involvement in a single context. IV. Åkerblad was ordered back to Sweden in 1804 when the diplomatic relations with France were severed. He disobeyed and went to Italy instead. This fourth part chronicles Åkerblad’s years during Occupation and restoration in Italy, the most stationary period in his adult life. Åkerblad’s life and his scholarly interests are certainly not representative of his times. But it cannot be the task of a biography to try to capture only what is representative. This biography is instead an attempt to make a few aspects of the period visible, some of them hitherto ignored. To write about Åkerblad’s experiences today sheds light on a few tumultuous decades and highlights the view of a scholar from the European periphery.
LC Subject Heading: Åkerblad, J.D; Sweden -- Foreign relations -- Egypt; Egyptology -- History
Defense Date: 10/09/2009; Examining Board: Prof. Antonella Romano, (EUI) - supervisor Prof. Anthony Molho, (EUI) Prof. Maya Jasanoff, Harvard University Prof. Eldem Edhem, Bogaziçi University
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