Egypt and the Near East have enchanted many people over the centuries. Travellers from the West have journeyed to this region for a variety of motives: in pursuit of knowledge, power, diplomacy and trade, for pleasure and adventure, on pilgrimage, and to plunder and discover the exotic - or sometimes simply to discover themselves. Some have been influenced more than others by what they saw; bringing back tangible evidence of their visits, in the form of antiquities or other collectors' items; others have used their observations and experiences for their own literary and artistic ends. This collection of papers has its origin in the conference "Travellers to Egypt and the Near East" held at St Catherine's College, Oxford in July 1997. They are arranged approximately in chronological order - though with so many common themes running through them, a strict sequence according to a single criterion has proved almost impossible. In addition to the chronological sequence, the reader will detect a number of common themes - religion, gender, economics, colonialism, perceptions of literature and art and so forth that haunt the essays and form webs of interconnection between them.
The papers included in this volume range from those on Mary Wortley Montagu and James Silk Buckingham to the grand tour phenomenon and the ruins of Sardis. These essays provide an array of perspectives on a set of historical, literary and cultural relationships about which debate is certain to continue well into the twenty-first century.