Courtesy Reuters


In 1593 an Ottoman historian, Selaniki Mustafa Efendi, recorded the arrival in Istanbul of an English ambassador. He was not very interested in the ambassador, but he was much struck by the English ship in which the ambassador traveled. "A ship as strange as this has never entered the port of Istanbul," he wrote. "It crossed 3,700 miles of sea and carried 83 guns besides other weapons . . . It was a wonder of the age the like of which has not been seen or recorded."

Why was this sophisticated Istanbul historian so interested in a ship coming from a barely heard

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