Can we use Ottoman ego documents to learn about an author's psychological states and mentalities of premodern Ottoman learned men, as well as broader themes such as political networks and exile? This is the main question this presentation seeks to answer. To do so, it takes a deeper look at a previously understudied ego document, an exile memoir by Karaçelebizade Abdülaziz Efendi (1592-1658). Karaçelebizade Abdülaziz was an Ottoman scholar, grand mufti, and historian. Having spent most of his career in religious-judiciary posts, he is nonetheless best known to modern academics for his historical writings: a universal history titled Ravzatü’l-Ebrar (The Gardens of the Beneficient), an addendum to Ravzatü’l-Ebrar about recent Ottoman history based on his personal involvement in political affairs, and a Zafername (Book of Victory) detailing Murad IV’s (r. 1623-1640) Baghdad campaign.
However, he has other writings that have attracted less scholarly attention. One such writing is Gülşen-i Niyaz (The Pleas of the Rose Garden), narrating his exile in Cyprus between 1634-6. Written in verse in a relatively plain Ottoman Turkish and completed after his return from Cyprus, this text can be characterized both as a personal plea to the ruler and to God, and as a personal memoir. Such ego documents are relatively rare in the Ottoman Empire in the early modern period and have been systematically studied qua ego documents only in the last few decades. Earlier literature saw such documents as valuable insofar as they provided material for historical reconstruction, but did not delve deeper. This presentation, instead, aims to contribute to the budding subfield of ego document studies in the premodern Ottoman lands. It looks at Karaçelebizade Abdülaziz’s Gülşen-i Niyaz not just as a repository of facts to reconstruct his career but also as a window into the inner psychological state of a seventeenth-century educated Ottoman scholar in exile and a window into Ottoman mentalities and cultural history at large.