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“Pouring Down Northern Wealth, Brings Holy Wisdom to the Homeland”: Christian Merchants and Education in Ottoman Yanya, 1797-1830
This paper focuses on Ottoman Christian merchants as patrons of education in the city of Yanya during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (approx. 1797- 1830). It takes as its case studies Emmanouil Gkioumas, Zois Kaplanis, and the Maroutsi and Zosima brothers, along with the schools they founded and patronized: the Gkiouma, Kaplaniaia, and Zosimaia Academies. My general aim is to better understand how local, imperial, and trans-imperial actors came together to foster educational development. Specifically, I ask: how did Ottoman Christian merchants active outside the empire work with local and imperial authorities to open and administer schools? How was this collaborative environment enabled and enhanced by early modern Ottoman realities? How does the view from Yanya inform our notions of non-Muslim schools and state-centric, institutional approaches to the study of education? My argument is that the opening of Greek schools in the period preceding the establishment of the independent Greek state was the result of collaboration between a variety of actors, both institutional— as in the case of the Orthodox Church— and individual. The rise during the eighteenth century of powerful provincial elites, such as a‘yan and new mercantile classes, was also a significant contributing factor to the flourishing of Greek education. This paper employs social network theory as well as theories of the household and its functions in order to chart the connections between different types of patrons, from provincial rulers to the Orthodox Church. It enters into conversation with theories of nationalism, which have traditionally approached education as a fundamental building-block of the nation-state. The source base employed is wide, including both documentary and print sources in Ottoman Turkish and Greek, drawn from the Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi and Patriarchal Archives in Istanbul, the Gennadius Library in Athens, and the Zosimaia Library in Ioannina. The broader contributions are two-fold. First, this paper suggests that Ottoman non-Muslim education, particularly in the Balkans, was neither a necessary precursor to nor an obvious indication of nationalist sentiment. Rather, its proliferation represented the rise of a variety of new elites, some but not all of which espoused nationalist ideas, and their collaboration with existing networks of power. In this sense, this paper also argues for situating non-Muslim education within its broader Ottoman context, suggesting that educational movements were not always driven by a single, state-centric vision but rather reflect a variety of different iterations of modernity.
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Ottoman Empire
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