Cemal Kafadar

2019
Balikcioglu, Efe. “A Coherence of Incoherences: Graeco-Arabic Philosophy and the Fifteenth-Century Ottoman Synthesis of Philosophy with Sharia.” History and MES, 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The fifteenth-century Ottoman world was a dynamic seedbed of philosophical and theological debates and was particularly marked by numerous adjudications produced by certain celebrated scholars who synthesized different domains of knowledge—whether it was speculative theology, philosophy or Sufism. This dissertation focuses on two important adjudications written on the renowned twelfth-century theologian Abū Ḥamīd al-Ghazālī’s (d. 505/1111) Tahāfut al-falāsifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers), which arbitrates between Arabic philosophy and theology.

Sultan Meḥemmed II ordered two prominent Ottoman scholars of his time, Ḫocazāde Muṣliḥ al-Dīn (d. 893/1488) and cAlā’ al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 887/1482), to prepare an adjudication on al-Ghazālī’s arguments. Sources indicate that the Sultan ultimately favored Ḫocazāde’s text. This study focuses on Ḫocazāde’s and al-Ṭūsī’s responses to the discussion of secondary causation and occasionalism in al-Ghazālī’s Discussion Seventeen on how existent things interact with each other and come into being in nature in concomitance with God’s all-encompassing power. Ḫocazāde particularly defended certain aspects of Graeco-Arabic philosophy (i.e. the Aristotelian-Avicennan philosophical tradition), whereas al-Ṭūsī favored the more orthodox Ashcarite approach, in which he denied the agency and the causal contribution of any being other than God. This examination argues that Ḫocazāde’s response to this discussion indicates why he was included among the seven select scholars who synthesized philosophy with Sharīca according to the seventeenth-century encyclopedist and savant Kātib Çelebi (d. 1068/1657). Ḫocazāde’s and al-Ṭūsī’s divergent approaches to the issues of secondary causation and occasionalism typify other formulations in the fifteenth-century Ottoman world that combined different aspects of Graeco-Arabic philosophy, speculative theology, and Sunnī creed, constituting a synthesis.

This study assays the works of Ḫocazāde and al-Ṭūsī in physics, metaphysics and speculative theology with regard to the common medrese handbooks studied during the fifteenth-century, as well as their responses to al-Ghazālī’s aforementioned work—in comparative perspective with a third approach espoused by Şemseddīn Aḥmed bin Mūsā, also known as Ḫayālī (d. 875/1470?). This study traces the formulations of Ḫocazāde, al-Ṭūsī, and Ḫayālī in common medrese handbooks of the time by documenting how their approaches were motivated by post-classical scholars such as Athīr al-Dīn al-Abharī (d. 663/1255?), Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī (d. 672/1274) and al-Sayyid al-Sharīf al-Jurjānī (d. 816/1413). This research highlights a new group of scholars emerging in the second half of the fifteenth century, hailed as “verifiers” (al-muḥaqqiqūn), who were able to synthesize various philosophical and theological formulations from differing textual traditions. Ḫocazāde epitomized this new scholar type, developing a coherent argument by incorporating elements from Graeco-Arabic philosophy and speculative theology.

2017
Howell, Jesse C.The Ragusa Road: Mobility and Encounter in the Ottoman Balkans (1430–1700).” History and MES, 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation is a study of human mobility in the western provinces of the Ottoman empire in the early modern era. By the end of the fifteenth century, the Ottomans had absorbed nearly the entire Balkan Peninsula. Dubrovnik (also known as Ragusa), a small mercantile republic on the Adriatic Sea, found itself surrounded by Ottoman territory. Dubrovnik managed to maintain its autonomy and preserve its coastal territories by accepting the position of tribute-paying vassal to the Ottoman state. In this context, the Ragusa Road, which stretched across Ottoman Rumelia (the Balkan Peninsula) to Istanbul, developed into a major axis of trade, diplomacy, and exchange. Unlike other pathways in the region, such as the Via Egnatia to the south, the Ragusa Road did not play a prominent role in earlier Roman transportation networks. Furthermore, the route was longer and more mountainous than alternatives. Yet, by the early sixteenth century, the Ragusa Road had become established as the most important East-West highway across the Balkan Peninsula, a corridor of communications linking the Ottoman capital to western Europe.

I explore the forces that conditioned and propelled overland travel on the Ragusa Road. Ottoman and Ragusan actors used complementary policies and practices to reduce obstacles and encourage overland travel. The results were mutually beneficial, and led to the route's increasing prominence in long-distance patterns of movement. Merchants, diplomats, pilgrims and spies increasingly elected to travel in Ragusan caravans, avoiding the vicissitudes of the maritime route. The cultural ramifications of the Ragusa Road's development are thus significant, as caravan travel brought together members of multiple religious, ethnic and linguistic communities, all of whom traveled together across a topographically challenging and culturally complex region. The records of these travelers reveal the unique cultural space of the road – and that of Ottoman Rumelia – in the early modern Mediterranean.

2016
Vaida, Elad. “The Rise of Romanian National Consciousness and Identity.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2016.
Gürbüzel, Aslıhan. “Teachers of the Public, Advisors to the Sultan: Preachers and the Rise of a Political Public Sphere in Early Modern Istanbul (1600-1675).” History and MES, 2016. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation focuses on preachers as key actors in the rise of a political public sphere in the early modern Ottoman Empire. Recently, literature on the political importance of corporate bodies and voluntary associations has transformed the understanding of the early modern Ottoman polity. Emphasis has shifted from the valorization of centralized institutions to understanding power as negotiated between the court and other stakeholders. My dissertation joins in this collective effort by way of studying preachers, and through them examining the negotiation of religious authority between the central administration and civic groups. I depict preachers as “mediating” religious power between the elite and the non-elite, and between the written and the oral cultures. I argue that the production of religious doctrine and authority took place at this intermediary space of encounter.

This study of early modern Islam with reference to the frame of public sphere has two main implications. Firstly, I present a “preacher-political advisor” type in order to demonstrate that the critical potential of religion was preserved in a new guise. Secondly, I show that informal circles of education gained primacy in the seventeenth century, giving rise to the vernacularization of formal sciences. The close reading of the manuscript sources left by preachers and their pupils also constitutes the first systematic exploration of the intersection between orality and literacy, and an important contribution to the study of Ottoman popular culture.

Sopov, Aleksandar. “Between the Pen and the Fields: Books on Farming, Changing Land Regimes, and Urban Agriculture in the Ottoman Eastern Mediterranean Ca. 1500-1700.” History and MES, 2016. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation goes “between the pen and the fields” in that it explores the relationship between the Ottoman discourse on farming as reflected in manuscripts, and the material and economic realities of farming shown in archival documents. Though a major focus is Istanbul and its surroundings, I also examine texts and documents related to agriculture in other regions across the Ottoman eastern Mediterranean. By studying farming treatises and manuals that were written, translated, copied, abridged, collected, and circulated in this region in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as well as works in more well known genres in which agricultural knowledge was also shaped, I examine an Ottoman scholarly discourse on farming not previously acknowledged. Over time, I argue, this discourse became more spatialized, vernacularized, and practically oriented, emphasizing firsthand experience and observation over the classical Arabic agricultural canon.

Agriculture in the Ottoman eastern Mediterranean before the nineteenth century has been characterized as stagnant or “traditional,” occurring in countrysides at a remove from mainstream commercial and intellectual concerns; yet the archival materials I discuss (study of court records, endowment deeds, tax surveys, surveys of agricultural laborers in the city, market price lists, etc.) show a more complex picture. They show that beginning around 1500, in certain regions—my study focuses mainly on Ottoman Thrace and the Balkans, but also other regions including Egypt—legal shifts concerning the status of land were connected with increased investment in farming by urbanites and members of the military class, including bureaucrats, scholars, and merchants. A new readership for scholarly works on farming thus emerged as well. On both state land, where urbanites were taking over the usufruct, and land belonging to charitable foundations, which was increasingly leased to urbanites with long-term contracts (even within the walled city of Istanbul), market-oriented farm estates, vineyards, orchards, and produce gardens were established. I show the ramifications of this in trade, consumption, environmental change (e.g. water usage), migration, labor, and agricultural discourse and knowledge. Spaces whose history this dissertation illuminates to a completely new degree are the urban market gardens of Istanbul, a few of which still exist today.

2014
Tusalp, Ekin Emine. “Political Literacy and the Politics of Eloquence: Ottoman Scribal Community in the Seventeenth Century.” History and MES, 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In 1703, the chief scribe (reisü'l-küttab) Rami Mehmed Efendi (d. 1708) was appointed as the grand vizier in the Ottoman Empire. In scholarship, Rami Mehmed epitomizes the transition in the political cadres from the people of the sword/seyfiye to the people of the pen/kalemiye as the first chief scribe to be appointed as the grand vizier. While this transition has long been accepted as a crucial aspect of eighteenth-century Ottoman history, the cultural and intellectual formation of "the people of the pen" as a distinct community before this period has not been adequately examined.

2013
Akisik, Aslihan. “Self and Other in the Renaissance: Laonikos Chalkokondyles and Late Byzantine Intellectuals.” History and MES, 2013. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman armies of Mehmed II in 1453 was a cataclysmic event that reverberated throughout Renaissance Europe. This event intensified the exodus of Byzantines to Italy and beyond and they brought along with them the heritage of Greek antiquity. Laonikos Chalkokondyles contributed to the Renaissance with his detailed application of Herodotos to the fifteenth century, Apodeixis Historion, and made sense of the rise of the Ottomans with the lens of ancient history. The Apodeixis was printed in Latin, French, and Greek and was widely successful. The historian restored Herodotean categories of ethnicity, political rule, language, and geography to make sense of contemporary events and peoples. This was a thorough study of ancient historiography and Laonikos thus parted ways with previous Byzantine historians. I refer to Laonikos' method as "revolutionary classicizing", to describe the ways in which he abandoned the ideal of lawful imperium and restored the model of oriental tyranny when he described the nascent Ottoman state. What appears to be emulation of the ancient classics was radical revival of political concepts such as city-states as ethnic units, freedom defined as independence from foreign rule, law-giving as fundamental aspect of Hellenic tradition which did not encompass the Christian period. Laonikos has often been studied in the context of proto-nationalist historiography as he had composed a universal history, wherein he had related extensive information on various ethnic and political units in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. However, such proto-nationalist application does not fully capture Laonikos’ classicizing interests. Laonikos referred to his contemporaries as Hellenes, not because he was a nationalist who defined political identity only by recourse to language and common history. Rather, Laonikos believed that Hellenic identity, both referring to paganism as well as ethnicity, was relevant and not bankrupt. Importantly, we introduce manuscripts that have not yet been utilized to argue that Hellenism as paganism was living reality for Laonikos, his Platonist teacher Plethon, and their circle of intellectuals in the fifteenth century.

Elbirlik, Leyla Kayhan. “Negotiating Matrimony: Marriage, Divorce, and Property Allocation Practices in Istanbul, 1755–1840.” History and MES, 2013. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation studies the construction of the marital bond and its dissolution with respect to the normative stipulations of the shari'a, social and moral constructions, and the cultural formations during late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century Istanbul. Through the examination of court cases, estate inventories, and contemporary chronicles, I demonstrate the strategies and practices that perpetrated possible patterns in the matrimonial union. Although Islamic law allowed for and encouraged the spouses to reconcile marriage-related negotiations outside of court, the amount of registered marital disputes indicates the central role of the court for spouses in establishing conciliatory grounds. This study explores in particular the consensual and purposeful use of the shari'a courts by women. The examination of the sicils from three different courts in intra muros Istanbul has shown that women were adamant about formalizing the consequence of marriage, divorce and property related discordances hoping to secure their future interests. The dissertation essentially introduces the largely overlooked issue of the specialization of courts in this period and presents specifically the Dāvud Pasha court’s concentration on marriage and family-related disputes. By focusing on local practices and particularities through a case-by-case methodology, the study delivers a portrayal of Ottoman urban marriage structure within the context of the socio-legal and economic dynamics of the period. Given that the formal registry of marriage contracts and divorce settlements was not legally enforced until the early twentieth century, the extensive practice of registration in court could be interpreted as the preliminary steps to the formalization and codification of the marital union. I offer a likely reading of women’s experiences with respect to marriage and property ownership suggesting that the predominant marriage pattern observed in the segment of the population that used the court was companionate. By analyzing quantitative data and archival material, I demonstrate women’s visibility in the public sphere through their significantly increased use of courts, proactive utilization of social networks, and strategic activities vis-a-vis marriage and divorce to depict a portrayal of the late eighteenth-century Istanbul family.

2011
Ilicak, Sukru. “A Radical Rethinking of Empire: Ottoman State and Society during the Greek War of Independence 1821–1826.” History and MES, 2011. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation investigates the Greek War of Independence as an Ottoman experience, exploring in particular how Sultan Mahmūd II (1808-1839) and the central state elite tried to make sense of and reacted to the rapidly changing world around them. It explores how the perceptions, actions and reactions of the Ottoman state to the Greek insurgency had a deep and long-lasting impact on both Ottoman state and society, and how it necessitated a radical rethinking of the empire. Specifically, it looks into the war's ensuing need to create a self-mobilizing proto-citizen, a project that was articulated by the Ottoman state as a response to the threat posed by the Greek insurgents. This study thus suggests that nineteenth century Ottoman history, especially the history of Tanzimat, cannot be properly understood without connecting it to the Greek War of Independence —something that has been sorely lacking in most “classical” histories of the Tanzimat period.

2009
Fitzgerald, Timothy J.Ottoman Methods of Conquest: Legal Imperialism and the City of Aleppo 1480-1570 .” History and MES, 2009. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This thesis examines the methods by which the Ottoman Empire conquered and endeavored to control the city of Aleppo—a cosmopolitan urban center now in northern Syria. It employs a broad understanding of conquest, one that considers engagements and orientations stretching far around the event of Aleppo's military surrender in 1516. This understanding, moreover, involves legal culture in ways not typically fronted in studies of imperial conquest. The thesis contends that the Ottomans—who after displacing the Mamluk Empire governed the core of the Islamic world—maintained an especially robust conception of their rule as a law-giving enterprise, which characterized their attention to everything from the details of judicial administration to the rhetoric of imperial self-justification. Using various sources, including legal codes and local law court records, this thesis describes an Ottoman project to solicit, nurture, and if necessary, impose a new legal order. Far from suggesting perfect coherence in practice, the combinative and experimental qualities of Ottoman involvement are thrown into relief. This dynamic process and the priorities it engendered are grouped under the rubric legal imperialism.

The thesis undertakes a detailed survey of the late Mamluk legal system, introducing the persons, institutions, and ideas that the Ottomans would inherit. The role of judges, law courts, legal documents, and legal identities receives special treatment, and the diffuse yet functional nature of the Mamluk arrangement is emphasized. A brief survey of Mamluk-Ottoman relations reveals that the conquerors could not have stepped into an unfamiliar world.

An overview of the Ottomans' conquering past and the sources, jurisdictions, and hierarchies of Ottoman law give historical shape to legal imperialism. The thesis then explores Ottoman Aleppo's early history using contemporary cadastral surveys, law codes, court records, and biographical literature. The spectacular killing of a centrally-appointed surveyor is used to demonstrate the protracted and complex nature of Ottomanization for a city long presumed to have succumbed easily. The construction of a judicial archive, the inspection of legal records (especially those pertaining to religious endowments), and the elevation of the Hanafi legal community—all developments with Mamluk antecedents—reveal Istanbul's concern to concentrate judicial practice.

Selcuk, Iklil Oya. “State and Society in the Marketplace: Bursa in the Late 15th Century.” History and MES, 2009. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The story of the Ottoman urban economy in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries is part of a broader transition that took place in the administrative, economic and social spheres as the Ottoman principality turned into a centralized empire. No historical study has been made of the Medieval Anatolian town economy and of the process through which it was transformed into an imperial system. This dissertation proposes to offer the first in-depth look at such a transformation process through a study of late fifteenth century Bursa, paying particular attention to urban production and market relations, to the legacy of medieval brotherhoods called ahīs, and to the relationship between the Ottoman state with this city's economy.

The main sources used in this dissertation are the Bursa kādī court records, together with a number of other sources such as cadastral surveys, sultanic law codes, imperial orders, pious endowment registers and manuals of ethics. Based on my research into these sources, I argue that fifteenth-century Ottoman Bursa displayed the characteristics of a period of transition towards some form of early modernity in terms of codified rules replacing ad hoc arrangements, the state playing an increasing role in the marketplace, proliferation and systematization of official record keeping, and the appearance of formal and hierarchical craft guilds.

2008
Goshgarian, Rachel. “Beyond the Social and the Spiritual: Redefining the Urban Confraternities of Late Medieval Anatolia.” History and MES, 2008. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation is the first comprehensive study of the phenomenon of the urban confraternity in 13th and 14 th-century Anatolia. Urban confraternities in late medieval Anatolia played a range of roles in cities like Ankara, Erzincan, Konya and Sivas. The important political and social void filled specifically by akhī organizations in 13th and 14th-century Anatolia can only be understood within the context of the importance of urban centers during this time period of political instability and attempts at reform, launched by both Christian and Islamic religious institutions.

Despite the fact that these associations of men living in urban centers in late medieval Anatolia have been addressed in scholarship, a real understanding of what functions the organizations performed, how they were organized, their relationship with cities and with various contemporary religious and political authorities has not been established. This is due both to the consistently changing nature of the brotherhoods and also to the ability of the concept of futuwwa (Arab., qualities of youth) to transform itself depending on the social and political reality within which it existed. This dissertation presents a detailed reconstruction of the basis of the moral code of futuwwa as it changed over time; it is also a study of the way in which that code was articulated in Anatolia (in Arabic, Armenian, Persian and Turkish). This dissertation attempts to reconsider one aspect of the history of 13th and 14th-century Anatolia from the perspective of regional urban history rather than a standard rule-oriented (i.e., Seljuk or Cilician) viewpoint. The goal in doing so is to present a more complete picture of the time. This dissertation shows that all over Anatolia in the 13th and 14th centuries urban associations of men existed playing similar roles and interacting with authorities (whether they were Christian or Muslim, Armenian or Turkish) in similar ways. Re-assessing the history of the region from this new perspective allows us to better understand the social realities of the age.

Karakaya-Stump, Ayfer. “Subjects of the Sultan, Disciples of the Shah: Formation and Transformation of the Kizilbash/Alevi Communities in Ottoman Anatolia.” History and MES, 2008. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation deals with the history of the Alevi communities historically known as the Kizilbash in Ottoman Anatolia. Scholars have typically treated Alevism as an undifferentiated strain within the hazy category of "heterodox folk Islam" and mostly in terms of the role these communities played in the sixteenth-century Ottoman-Safavid conflict. There has thus been little effort to explore Alevi history in its own right. This dissertation proposes to fill this gap by examining the development of the Alevis' socio-religious organization, which is centered around a number of charismatic family lines called ocaks. Drawing upon a group of newly available documents and manuscripts emanating from within the Alevi milieu itself, this dissertation traces the origins of the ocak system to the cosmopolitan Sufi milieu of late medieval Anatolia and accounts for the system's evolution up to the nineteenth century.

Chapter one reveals the historical affinity of a number of prominent Alevi ocaks in eastern Anatolia with the Waf'i order and shows how from the second half of the fifteenth century onwards the various branches of the Wafa'iyya came to merge with the Safavid-led Kizilbash movement, gradually evolving into distinct components of the Alevi ocak system. Chapters two and three deal with the trajectory of the Alevi-Bektashi symbiosis. Highlighting Alevis' historical ties to the Abdal/Bektashi convent in Karbala, these chapters propose looking beyond the central Bektashi convent in Kirşehir for a fuller grasp of the issue. Chapter four, devoted to Alevi-Safavid relations, argues that the Alevis conceived of their bond with the Safavids primarily in Sufi terms and that they continued in their spiritual attachment to the shahs even after the revolutionary phase of the Kizilbash movement. Relations between the shahs and their Anatolian followers were maintained through the mediation of the Abdal/Bektashi convent in Karbala. Until the late seventeenth century, the Safavids also continued to bestow hilafetnames on members of Alevi ocaks and to dispatch religious treatises to Anatolia. The Safavid memory among the Alevis began to fade away following the demise of the dynasty around the mid-eighteenth century and the subsequent increase in influence of the Çelebi Bektashis among them.

Trepanier, Nicolas. “Food as a Window Into Daily Life in Fourteenth Century Central Anatolia.” History and MES, 2008. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation seeks to reconstruct the texture of daily life and, through this, worldviews in fourteenth century Central Anatolia. It uses the various parts that food plays in the human experience both as a sampling mechanism and as a way to organize its discussion of ordinary lives in four main thematic areas, each one covered in a separate chapter. The resulting dissertation constitutes one of the first broad-ranging social histories of the final phase in this region's transition between the (Christian-ruled) Byzantine and (Muslim-Ruled) Ottoman period.

Chapter One is entirely devoted to the source material (hagiographies, chronicles and other narrative sources) and to its analysis in the context of an under-documented period. It also offers a new look at waqfiyya s (Islamic endowment deeds), a type of document whose relevance for rural and agricultural history has largely been disregarded. Chapter Two covers food production (gardens, cereal farming and animal husbandry) as the professional activity of the majority of the population, as well as life in the countryside and the relationship that people entertained with the land. Chapter Three concentrates on food exchanges, exploring the networks of interaction and information that developed with trade, as well as the various food-related points of contact between the rulers and the ruled (taxes, army logistics, plunder, etc.). Chapter Four, the most substantial in this dissertation, uses the meal as a central concept to discuss a large number of issues pertaining to food consumption, from social interactions to cooking vessels and from hospitality to the social connotations of given food items. Finally, Chapter Five investigates food as it interacts with religion, both by looking at festivals and rituals that involve food as a sample of religious practices, and by studying the religious associations of particular foodstuffs.

The conclusion presents fourteenth century Central Anatolian society as one deeply marked by social stratification yet in which even ordinary people enjoyed a significant measure of agency and awareness of the world beyond their immediate surroundings. In a broader perspective, it also uses a comparison with literary fiction to determine in what respects and to what extent an understanding of late mediaeval worldviews is at all possible.

Wittmann, Richard. “Before Qadi and Grand Vizier: Intra-Communal Dispute Resolution and Legal Transactions Among Christians and Jews in the Plural Society of Seventeenth Century Istanbul.” History and MES, 2008. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation studies the use of legal institutions provided by the Islamic state in the resolution of intracommunal disputes and in the registration of legal transactions among Christians and Jews in late seventeenth century Istanbul. While being the capital city of an Islamic Empire, Ottoman Istanbul in the 1680s and 90s was home to roughly 250,000 Christians and Jews who shared the city with an equal number of Muslims. Even though Islamic law allowed Christians and Jews as dhimmis to resolve most intracommunal legal disputes before an autonomous legal tribunal operated by their respective religious community, many dhimmis forfeited this privilege and preferred to resort instead to legal institutions operated by the Islamic state.

This study examines the voluntary use by dhimmis of three forms of dispute resolution provided by the Islamic state. In addition to the use of the ordinary justice system administered by the qadi of a sharica court, two thus far largely ignored forms of conflict resolution will be considered: the extraordinary justice system of the Imperial Council (divan-i hüm ayun), and the amicable settlement of disputes (sulh).

Based primarily on Ottoman archival documents, namely the shari‘a court records of Galata and Hasköy, the complaints registers of the divan (şikayet defterleri), and on the fatwa collections of the sheikh ul-Islams of the period, this study explores with regard to non-Muslims a local manifestation of Islamic law rather than its textbook version provided in the doctrinal works of Islamic jurisprudence. While sharing the same legal status of dhimmi, the use of Islamic legal institutions varied greatly between Orthodox Christians, Armenians and Jews according to religion, gender or function within their community. Furthermore, this thesis shows that Istanbul's dhimmis exercised a remarkable degree of agency with regard to (1) the choice of court, (2) the decision on the form of conflict resolution, and (3) through their approach to the chosen legal process.

Yaycioglu, Ali. “The Provincial Challenge: Regionalism, Crisis, and Integration in the Late Ottoman Empire (1792-1812).” History and MES, 2008. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation focuses on a set of historical circumstances in the Ottoman Empire wherein a new type of provincial elite emerged in the Balkans and Anatolia, consolidated their power in their provincial units and challenged the constitutional basis of the Ottoman imperial system in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The dissertation operates in two parts. The first part analyzes the institutional transformation of Ottoman provincial governance in the eighteenth century. Here, I discuss different mechanisms whereby some local individuals and families consolidated their power and gradually established their control over their provincial units. I particularly focus on the mechanisms of the delegation of authority from imperial authorities to local notables, the emergence of a managerial class as a result of the expansion of tax farming and the participation of communities in the election of municipal overseers.

In Part Two, I depict the circumstances in different Ottoman provinces that transformed these individuals and families from local to regional and from regional to imperial actors. I analyze the political processes whereby they established their regional autonomy, set up networks on an imperial scale and became major actors within the imperial establishment. Then, I focus on the political developments between 1806 and 1808, a period of political turmoil, factional struggle and revolution. This political crisis gave birth to an alliance between some provincial power-holders and a faction in the central government. This alliance produced a major document, the Deed of Agreement (Sened-i ittifak), signed by members of the central state and provincial leaders and redefining authority within the imperial state. In the last chapter, I scrutinize the constitutional orientation of this document.

As a conclusion, I argue that the provincial challenge experienced by the Ottoman Empire in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries created possibilities for the transformation of the empire into a more participatory and integrationist polity.

2007
Muslu, Emire Cihan. “Ottoman-Mamluk Relations: Diplomacy and Perceptions.” History and MES, 2007. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation analyses the relationship between the Ottoman and the Mamlūk powers from the mid-fourteenth century to 1512, or from the inception of Ottoman-Mamluk diplomatic relations through the rule of Bāyezīd II. During this period, the relationship between these two powers underwent a transformation. In reconstructing this transformation, previous scholars have chosen to focus on moments of conflict and war. However, the two regions in which the Ottoman and Mamlūk powers ruled were connected by a wide range of political, diplomatic, social, cultural, and commercial networks that were established long before the emergence of the two powers. Such networks were a part of Ottoman-Mamlūk relations, as was the hostility, which became prevalent in the interactions between the Ottoman and the Mamlūk rulers after the 1450s. By studying these networks and by placing particular emphasis on diplomatic ones, this dissertation reevaluates the interactions between the two powers.

While narrating the relationship between the Ottomans and the Mamlūks, the dissertation also examines diplomatic incidents that took place between the two courts. Primary sources that report about the contacts between the two powers put a particular emphasis on those diplomatic incidents. This emphasis not only reveals the significant role of diplomacy in the communication between rulers, but also offers critical insight into the minds of sovereigns. Through meticulously crafted letters and carefully chosen envoys and gifts, rulers exchanged their political visions and mutual perceptions. By studying such diplomatic culture and the symbols embedded in it, this dissertation attempts to illuminate both the changing mutual perceptions of these two societies and the diplomatic conventions that were practiced in the larger Medieval Islamic world.

2006
Wilkins, Charles. “Households, Guilds, and Neighborhoods: Social Solidarities in Ottoman Aleppo 1640-1700.” History and MES, 2006. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This thesis examines the social and political transformations of the Ottoman Empire in the seventeenth century by tracing changes in the urban institutions of a provincial city. It considers the question of how, in a period of persistent warfare, urban populations reorganized local institutions in efforts to maintain social and political order. Making use of local court records and central state correspondence, the study focuses on the city of Aleppo, and investigates three basic social units---the residential quarter, professional organization, and patrimonial household---as they underwent two major developments: the diffusion of military cadres in provincial society and the regularized imposition of extraordinary taxes.

Focusing on the residential quarter, Part I demonstrates the instrumental importance of this unit in the taxation process and, challenging common assumptions, shows that the central administration remained capable of rigorous and probing cadastral surveys that are associated with "classical" sixteenth-century fiscal administration. Residents of urban quarters in turn met the demands of extraordinary taxation in a variety of ways, primarily by subsidizing tax payments for the poor, jointly managing declining properties, and establishing charitable endowments.

Part Two examines two types of professional organizations, guilds and military garrisons. The first chapter of this part considers shifting patterns of leadership and membership in four large guilds as ambitious guildsmen and merchants affiliated with military units and formed ties of clientage with soldiers. The second chapter examines the reverse process by which members of local, city-based military units became enmeshed in the social and economic life of the city. Over time, military units shifted from hierarchical organizations with unity of command to more egalitarian structures motivated by commercial interests.

Part III concentrates on one strategy of household-building among the social elite: the acquisition of slaves. Slaveholding in Aleppo was facilitated by the regular movement through the city of military cadres, who sold slaves either as a commercial venture or due to financial necessity. Valued as servants, soldiers, companions, and business agents, slaves assimilated to the households of merchants and military-administrative officials, in some cases providing critical human and material resources for the households' continuity.

2005
Kastritsis, Dimitris. “The Ottoman Interregnum (1402-1413): Politics and Narratives of Dynastic Succession.” History and MES, 2005. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation is the first comprehensive study of the formative but obscure time in Ottoman history known as the Interregnum (1402–1413). The Interregnum was a period of dynastic warfare following the Battle of Ankara, in which the Ottoman Sultan Yildirim Bāyezīd I was crushed by the Central Asian conqueror Timur and his empire was dismembered. The ensuing struggles for the succession between Bāyezīd's heirs were bloody and socially divisive, making the Interregnum one of the most complex and troubled periods in Ottoman history.

Despite the fact that the Interregnum played a formative role for the later Ottoman Empire, this period has received little scholarly attention to date, and even its events are largely unknown. This is due to the extreme complexity of the period's politics, which involved many internal factions and foreign powers, as well as the varied nature of the sources available for its study. This dissertation is a detailed reconstruction of events based on the available sources, and also a study of the political culture of the period in question. Specific themes addressed include attitudes on fratricide and dynastic succession and the role of the Interregnum in the appearance of the first Ottoman historical literature in the courts of the rival princes, which reflects the unique political concerns of the time. Specifically, it is argued that two works composed in the court of the winner of the Interregnum Sultan Mehemmed I represent a deliberate attempt to justify his actions against his brothers. In order to explore this theme, extensive original translations of these works are provided, as well as of many other relevant sources. The present study will be essential reading for scholars in the broader field of Ottoman studies, since it sheds light on the politics of a formative period in Ottoman history. It will also interest historians concerned with the role of periods of political instability and civil strife in shaping the politics and historical consciousness of a society.

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