Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Henrietta Marchant Liston, 1800, oil on canvas (Chester Dale Collection: courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington)

In 1812, Henrietta Liston arrived in Istanbul with her husband Robert, who had come to take up for a second time the position of British Ambassador to the Sublime Porte. Over the following years spent in Constantinople and travelling around Anatolia, Henrietta kept detailed journals of her experiences and observations. These journals survive in the Liston Papers at the National Library of Scotland, where they form part of an extensive archive that also holds the Listons’ personal correspondence and official papers – their passports, instructions, dispatches, invitations, maps, sketches and financial accounts.

A joint venture between the National Library of Scotland and academics from the departments of English Literature and History at Bilkent University in Ankara, the Approaching Constantinople project aims to introduce Henrietta Liston’s writings from her Turkish residency and travels to a wider readership. It also aims to support and promote research into the Listons’ time among the Ottomans, and into Anglo-Turkish diplomacy and inter-cultural relations more generally. In doing so, it builds upon the Library’s recent work on the Listons’ earlier North American travels,

We hope the project’s various outcomes will be of interest to scholars of cultural and diplomatic history, of Ottoman and British nineteenth-century politics, of women’s travel- and life-writing, and of Orientalism, as well as to a broader audience attracted by the immediacy and vitality of Liston’s writing.


See below for a list of publications, events, films, podcasts, exhibitions and other resources dedicated to Henrietta Liston’s Turkish travels, produced by members of the project team.

Book cover of Henrietta Liston's TravelsHenrietta Liston’s Travels: The Turkish Journals, 1812-1820, edited by Patrick Hart, Valerie Kennedy and Dora Petherbridge (Edinburgh University Press, 2020)

💻 ‘The Travels of Henrietta Liston: The journals of a diplomat’s wife, 1796—1801 and 1812—1820‘, National Library of Scotland. (The National Library’s online resource dedicated to Liston’s journals from her travels to and around North America and Turkey, including digital facsimiles, semi-diplomatic transcriptions, interactive maps and a list of further resources. This resource also includes over a dozen ‘long reads‘, essays and other creative responses from a range of writers inspired by Liston’s writings and career, including Maureen Freely, Ece Temelkuran, Frank Cogliano and Sara Sheridan.)

📺   Henrietta Liston: Approaching Constantinople, 1812-1820: a short film introducing Liston’s Turkish travels and writings, presented by Dora Petherbridge

♪ ‘Honey from Athens… but Alas! No Butter‘: episode 13 of the podcast Your Most Obedient and Humble Servant, hosted by Kathryn Gehred, with Dora Petherbridge (NLS) and Patrick Hart (Bilkent University), discussing Henrietta Liston’s letter from Constantinople to her nephew Dick Ramage, dated of 6 March 1813.

✒ Patrick Hart and Dora Petherbridge, ‘The Eye of a Stranger: Henrietta Liston’s Turkish Journals‘, Scottish Review of Books, August 2019

📺   ‘Plague, princes and political ’embarras’: Henrietta Liston’s Constantinople’: an online talk and discussion hosted by the National Library, at which the editors of Henrietta Liston’s Travels: The Turkish Journals 1812-1820 offer insights into editing Liston’s manuscripts, her views on life ‘à la Turque’, and her observations on sultanic power, plague, and Ottoman women in an empire on the eve of reform.

You can find a full playlist of all the videos and readings hosted by the National Library and relating to Henrietta Liston’s travels and writings here.