Approaching Ottoman History: An Introduction to the Sources

Approaching Ottoman History: An Introduction to the Sources

Approaching Ottoman History: An Introduction to the Sources

Approaching Ottoman History: An Introduction to the Sources

Synopsis

In a state-of-the art introduction to Ottoman history, Suraiya Faroqhi explores the documentary sources and explains how to interpret them to students in the field and in related disciplines. By considering both archival and narrative sources, she demonstrates why they were prepared, encouraging her readers to adopt a critical approach to their findings. While the book is essentially a guide to a complex discipline for initiates into the field, the experienced Ottomanist will find much that is original and provocative in its sophisticated interpretation.

Excerpt

In this book I hope to share with my readers the fascination with Ottoman sources, both archival and literary in the wider sense of the word, which have become accessible in growing numbers during the last decade or so. The cataloguing of the Prime Minister's Archives in Istanbul advances rapidly, and various instructive library catalogues have appeared, both in Turkey and abroad. On the basis of this source material it has become possible to question, thoroughly revise, and at times totally abandon, the conventional images of Ottoman history which populated the secondary literature as little as thirty years ago. We no longer regard Ottoman officials as incapable of appreciating the complexities of urban economies, nor do we assume that Ottoman peasants lived merely by bartering essential services and without contact to the money economy. We have come to realise that European trade in the Ottoman Empire, while not insignificant both from an economic and a political point of view, was yet dwarfed by interregional and local commerce, to say nothing of the importation of spices, drugs and fine cottons from India.

Not that our methodological sophistication has at all times corresponded to the promises held out by these new sources, far from it. But some stimulating novelties are visible, such as the growing interface between art history and political history of the Ottoman realm, and an awakening interest in comparative projects shared with Indianists or Europeanists. Many Ottomanist historians now seem less parochially fixated on their particular speciality and willing to share the results of their research with representatives of other fields. Paradoxically, the recent growth in the number of available sources has led to a decline in the previously rather notable tendency of Ottomanists to identify with 'their' texts and the points of view incorporated in them. Many of us indeed have become aware of the . . .

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