At home in the Ottoman Empire
Humanitarianism and the Victorian diplomat
in The cultural construction of the British world
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This chapter examines the world of the Victorian diplomat through the life and work of Austen Henry Layard and his circle in Constantinople. Best known for his excavations of Assyrian artifacts at Mosul (now in the British Museum), Layard parlayed his fame as an adventurer-archeologist into a position as Disraeli’s Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. At Constantinople, Layard found himself at the center of a humanitarian and diplomatic crisis. The slaughter of Bulgarian civilians by Ottoman forces on the eve of the 1878 Russo-Turkish War sparked outrage at home over the “Bulgarian Atrocities.” His life as a diplomat at the Sublime Porte placed him at the center of a network of philanthropists, consuls, and other diplomats who attempted to reconcile Britain’s humanitarian commitments with geopolitical realities.

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