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State Power and Social Order in the Early Modern Era

Panel II-24, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Thursday, November 2 at 5:30 pm

Panel Description
  • This paper addresses the reorganisation of Ottoman military organisation and resources in the hinterland of Euboea and Lepanto in the face of the gradual change of power balance in the eastern Mediterranean in the second half of the fifteenth century, and examines to what extent the Ottoman coastal defence capabilities were improved by the 1520s. The tahrir defters of Tırhala Sancağı (pre-1440, 1454/1455, 1466/1467, 1480, 1506, 1521) and those of Eğriboz Sancağı (1474, 1506, 1521) not only show that the nahiyes of Vodonitsa, İstefe and Livadiye under Tırhala Sancağı since the mid-fifteenth century were attached to Eğriboz around 1507, but also cast light on the gap between the resource and military potential of provincial troops in the two sancaks. The timar system had been well implemented in Tırhala no later than the 1440s, and the late fifteenth century witnessed a significant increase in ordinary timariots’ average annual revenue (3266.57 akçe in 1454/1455 to 5993.43 in 1480) along with the prebend holders’ growing capability to finance more armed retainers in Tırhala. In contrast, in 1474, many timars in newly-conquered Eğriboz were still noted as ‘reserved’ (mevkuf). Textual sources, such as petitions and investigation reports, also exhibit the Eğriboz military-administrative officials’ desperate need for additional revenue income and manpower to deal with fortress renovation and frequent piracy. The increased demand for financial and human resources from the Euboean side led to the contests and disputes over taxation during harvest season between the timariots in İstefe and the Eğriboz sancakbeyi, as seen in the 1500/1501 ahkâm defteri. The paper argues that the Porte attached Vodonitsa, İstefe and Livadiye to Eğriboz Sancağı around 1507 in the hope that this sea border sub-province could get more manpower and financial resources for coastal defence, heralding the establishment of the Eyalet of Archipelago (1534). The 1521 Eğriboz tahrir defteri proves that these three nahiyes contributed 48.5% of the total revenue from the prebends in Eğriboz that year, supplying 5 of the 8 zeamets under Eğriboz. Thanks to these additional resources, the local governors might have been enabled to strengthen the castles and garrisons. Military mobilisation reports from the 1520s demonstrate that a secured Euboean coastline was complementary to the vital transportation of Thessalian grains from the Euboean Gulf to the rest of the empire, and the deployment of the Thessalian provincial troops who were often summoned to join the imperial expeditionary armies elsewhere.
  • This research examines gravestones (levh-i mezar) from a few selected Ottoman graveyards (hazires), Seyyid Nizam, Eski Topkapı and Dedeler. These gravestones contain text that serve to express emotional experiences throughout the Ottoman Empire's 'stagnation' phase in the 17th century and early 18th century, when the so-called 'decline' period began. Ottoman gravestones provide insight into Ottoman death culture, with their diversity representing all strata of society. These culturally and aesthetically rich gravestones were handed down through generations and evolved into a symbol of Ottoman identity. These tombstones are multi-dimensional archive artifacts that offer light on national culture and history, bearing the work of several artists. They are one-of-a-kind tools that transmit the beliefs, worries, anxieties, pleasures, and a variety of emotions of individuals who shared the same air and lived in the same places. They also reflect the deceased person's social life and economic standing. The skilled craftsmanship in the forms of the gravestones and their location in significant areas of the city contribute to understanding the physicality ascribed to the ritual by the Ottomans. The stones, as a textual source, provide evidence of Ottoman after-death rituals. Previous works have focused on the texts found on these gravestones, but they have only touched on how they influence and inform us of the emotions of the people who encounter them. This study therefore contributes to this gap. Gravestones for this study were chosen according to the emotional relevance of their texts to death and how much the feeling of death could be read from these stones. I intend to discuss the parametric changes that gravestone emotional experiences underwent in Istanbul. This is achieved through an analytical approach that seeks to categorize the emotions that the grievers expressed in their texts as a result of factors such as the loss of a child, premature death, longing, pride, and sorrow, amongst others. This analysis suggests, through certain similarities, that these texts were elaborated from a primary source, which remains unknown. This research extends Rosenwein’s works on ‘generations of feelings’ by giving us an Ottoman perspective and, thus, a better idea of how they lived and their culture in this period.
  • Years of research on the court records have demonstrated that women from various religious and social backgrounds approached the Ottoman sharia court for diverse reasons including but not limited to resolving any issues regarding inheritance, to make donations, to administer their property, to engage in artisanal, financial and mercantile transactions, to negotiate terms of their marriage contract and divorce settlements and to seek justice against the domestic violence and sexual brutality. One of the main purposes of this paper, then, is to contribute this valuable scholarship by dwelling upon Gypsy/ Roma women, one of the least –if not the least – explored segments of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious women of the Ottoman world. Through reading the court records of Üsküdar from 1540s to 1640s and supplementing them with the other court registers of the greater Istanbul as well as registers of the Imperial assembly, this paper will attempt to situate the presence of Gypsy within these records, both quantitatively and qualitatively. As we shall see, visibility of Gypsy women within the court registers of sixteenth-century early modern Istanbul in general and Üsküdar in particular is rather limited compared to their Muslim and non-Muslim female contemporaries. The reason behind this limited presence is one of the questions I shall try to answer in this paper. Next, an attempt shall be made to map out the reasons which made the Gypsy women came to the court to seek justice. Finally and more significantly, by reading some of the court cases in which Gypsy women sat either as a defendant or litigant, an attempt will be made to demonstrate not only means of textual construction of gender and “ethnic” difference in the textual world of the Ottoman court records but also analyze when and how Gypsy women could really “speak” at the court to negotiate their plights.
  • The proposed paper explores the strategies of delineation and enforcement of imperial practices and policies seeking to regulate inter-confessional relations and the status of Orthodox Christians in the early-modern Ottoman Empire. I focus on how the Ottoman concept of âyîn denoting (in this particular context) Orthodox Christian rite was used in the Ottoman patriarchal decrees of appointment [berât] as a discursive tool delineating confessional boundaries, enforcing the behaviors and practices associated with a certain rite, and modifying the social order by defining certain practices as becoming or unbecoming of a Christian rite. While contents and boundaries of the Christian rite drew from many sources of knowledge – from Islamic law to imperial Ahd-names to the understanding of what is and is not considered a sin in Christianity - I argue that âyîn, rather than being a rigid theological or ideological category, was a flexible political category that was instrumentalized by various groups to react to, interact with, and counteract the realities of the time they observed. Thus, positing a certain behavior/practice as being against the Christian rite was often born out of historical context, imperial anxieties, and necessities to control the imperial subjects. These anxieties and the responses they necessitated were then dressed in a confessional or Christian “jacket” to attribute urgency to certain practices by presenting them as innately Christian and to legitimize the prohibition of undesirable practices among the Ottoman subjects by presenting them as unbecoming of a good Christian. I also analyze, the imperial decrees issued in response to patriarchal berâts to demonstrate how âyîn was further instrumentalized to tie the image of a faithful Christian to that of a loyal Ottoman subject by suggesting that failure to uphold one of the categories/identities led to inevitable failure in endorsing the other. Thus, the paper contributes to the understanding of the interconnections between the characteristics pertaining to a good Ottoman subject and to a good Christian and how both affiliations were cultivated by the imperial authorities and Orthodox patriarchs alike through the use of confessional categories as political rhetorical tools.
  • In 1681, a large group of Muslim residents from the Kemer Hatun neighborhood of Istanbul—including the imam Mustafa Efendi—came to court. They collectively stated that an Armenian resident of the neighborhood named Serkiz had built a church in a residential area that included in its interior candles (kandil), trump (sûr), and fire (isnam). In addition, Armenians were performing their “superstitious rituals and prayers” (ayin-i küfri) there, which were led by several priests, namely Andon, Andos, and Serkiz. They mentioned that while the Armenian community of the church had previously been prohibited from performing these rituals by a ruling of the court, they were still engaging in them with the participation of even more men and women than before. In addition to performing their rituals, the attendees were congregating around the church to drink wine and engage in similar “misconduct.” For these reasons, the plaintiffs demanded the church’s demolition and the court assigned several officials to investigate the situation. Ultimately, by citing the principle that it was not permitted to build [new] churches in the lands of Islam (Bilad-i İslamiye) according to Islamic jurisprudence, the court once again prohibited the community from using the building as a church. By utilizing unpublished legal court records as well as registers of important affairs (mühimme defterleri) and registers of complaints (şikayet defterleri), this paper examines churches and the central role they played in intercommunal relations in Istanbul during the second half of the seventeenth century, with a specific emphasis on the district of Galata and its ethnically and religiously diverse population. Amid heightened religiosity in the seventeenth century, space served as a medium through which communal interests were advanced and communal differences were enacted. By competing for control over space and strengthening the spatial boundaries of their communities, the religious and ethnic communities of Istanbul aimed at forming distinct identities based on intracommunal bonds. Christian churches were crucial components of this spatial competition and received unprecedented official and public attention during this period. This paper seeks to focus on two neglected issues regarding the regulation and treatment of churches in Istanbul: 1) how the reactions of non-Muslim communities to this regulation, including their use of residential spaces as sacred spaces, cemented their intracommunal solidarities, and 2) how contested sacred spaces were crucial to the process of redefining sociocultural hierarchies within the Ottoman system during this period and in subsequent centuries.
  • What did it mean to be a Kâfiru’l-mille (infidel) slave in the early modern Crimean Khanate? And how was it different from being a Müsellemi’l-mille (Muslim) slave? How would conversion into Islam effect the master-slave relationship and smooth the integration and absorption process of the slaves into the Crimean society? Were converted slaves (şeref-i İslâm ile müşerref olan) doing this act as a maneuver and attempt to the agency to change or control their fates? If yes, then what were the costs of conversion into Islam for non-Muslim slaves? Slavery studies in the Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Khanate at different periods have been historians’ focus since the 1980s. However, many details of this field have been understudied, such as the conversion of slaves, the agency of the slaves, and how this effect their degree of dependency. This study aims to fill this gap by focusing on the agency of the slaves through conversion. By analyzing selected court registers of the Crimean Khanate, a broader picture of the role of conversion in the slave’s life will be drawn. The capital city, Bakhchysarai was inhabited by a huge population of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural slaves. Among those some were Islam converts, and some kept their own faith. As slave raids to non-Muslim neighborhoods were a common practice by Crimean Tatars, the number of non-Muslim slaves who were brought to the Crimean Khanate was high. Ending up as a slave in the Crimean Khanate, conversion was probably seen as one of the ways to accelerate the process of manumission and integration into society by accepting Islam. It was also a way of mitigating relations with the household, getting their sympathy, and mercy and becoming “a member” of the family. By doing so, slaves could also decrease the degree of their dependencies, enjoy more agency and get the trust of the family. By investigating the processes of conversion of non-elite-household slaves in the Crimean Khanate and the potential motivations behind it, this study aims at contributing to the studies on slavery and agency of slaves as well as to the recently developed asymmetrical dependency studies. Key Words: Conversion, Slavery, Islamic Law, Crimean Khanate, Court Registers