From the fall of Constantinople in 1453 until the 18th century, many Western European writers viewed the Ottoman Empire with almost obsessive interest. Typically, they reacted to it with fear and distrust; and such feelings were reinforced by the deep hostility of Western Christendom towards Islam. Yet there was also much curiosity about the social and political system on which the huge power of the sultans was based. In the 16th century, especially, when Ottoman territorial expansion was rapid and Ottoman institutions seemed particularly robust, there was even open admiration. Chaired by Tom Clark of Prospect magazine.