A History of Violence? Islam, English Orientalism, and the Bombay Riot of 1851

  • Andrew D. MagnussonEmail author
Part of the Britain and the World book series (BAW)


This article traces English conceptions of the relationship between Islam and violence as they developed through the eighteenth century. In The Myth of Religious Violence (2009), William Cavanaugh argues that political authorities in early modern Europe usurped the power of religious authorities by claiming a monopoly on violence. The state relegated religion to the private sphere and dismissed religiously motivated violence as irrational. The myth that Islam is a violent religion attained prominence in English scholarship at the same time. English authors seldom depicted Muslims as violent before the Ottoman conquests of the sixteenth century. Thereafter, the trope is ubiquitous. Reformers, Orientalists and Enlightenment thinkers regularly reproduced it in both print and art. The myth of religious violence then spread to India where is sparked the Bombay Riot of 1851 and became a self-fulfilling prophecy at the dawn of empire there.



My thanks to the students in History 4910-Islam and the Enlightenment for helping me to think through these issues.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History and GeographyUniversity of Central OklahomaEdmondUSA

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