Arminius Vambéry and the British Empire

Between East and West


This book, by David Mandler, frames the fascinating life and influential works of the Hungarian Orientalist, Arminius Vambéry (1832–1913), within the context of nineteenth-century identity politics and contemporary criticisms of Orientalism.


Based on extensive research, the book authoritatively presents a comprehensive narrative of Arminius Vambéry’s multiple identities as represented in Hungary and in Great Britain.


The author traces Vambéry’s development from a marginalized Jewish child to a recognized authority on Hungarian ethnogenesis as well as on Central Asian and Turkish geopolitical developments.


Throughout the book, the reader meets Vambéry as the Hungarian traveler to Central Asia, the British and Ottoman secret agent, the mostly self-taught professor of Oriental languages, the political pundit, and the highly sought after guest lecturer in Great Britain known for his fierce Russophobe pronouncements.


The author devotes special attention to the period that transformed Vambéry from a linguistically talented but penniless Hungarian Jewish youth into a pioneering traveler in the double-disguise of a Turkish effendi masquerading as a dervish to Central Asia in 1863–64.


Arminius Vambéry is one of the most fascinating figures in modern Jewish history, and David Mandler has provided us with a magnificent depiction of his remarkable life as a traveler to Muslim lands, a linguist, and the toast of nineteenth-century London high society.
— Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College

He does so because Vambéry’s published observations of an arena still closed to Europeans facilitated his emergence as a colorful personality and a significant authority on Central Asia and Turkey in Great Britain for the next fifty years.


In addition, the book also devotes significant space to Vambéry’s dynamic relationship to his most famous student, Ignác Goldziher (1850–1921), who is considered to be one of the founders of modern Islamic Studies. Lastly, Vambéry’s impact on Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, is also explored.


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Chapter 1: Arminius Vambéry, the Self-Made Man: The Journey from Destitute Hungarian Jew to Celebrated Central Asian Expert in British Public Discourse

Chapter 2: Hungarian, Explorer, Russophobe, and Eastern Brother: Vambéry in British Public Discourse

Chapter 3: Vambéry and the Great Goldziher: Negotiating Jewishness, Zionism, Hungarianness, and Each Other

Conclusion: Appendix: Bram Stoker’s Arminius: Vambéry in Dracula


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David Mandler received his PhD from New York University. He previously taught at Touro College and currently works in secondary education.

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