The Ottoman World

The Ottoman World

The Ottoman World

The Ottoman World


The Ottoman empire as a political entity comprised most of the present Middle East (with the principal exception of Iran), north Africa and south-eastern Europe. For over 500 years, until its disintegration during World War I, it encompassed a diverse range of ethnic, religious and linguistic communities with varying political and cultural backgrounds.

Yet, was there such a thing as an 'Ottoman world' beyond the principle of sultanic rule from Istanbul? Ottoman authority might have been established largely by military conquest, but how was it maintained for so long, over such distances and so many disparate societies? How did provincial regions relate to the imperial centre and what role was played in this by local elites? What did it mean in practice, for ordinary people, to be part of an 'Ottoman world'?

Arranged in five thematic sections, with contributions from thirty specialist historians, The Ottoman Worldaddresses these questions, examining aspects of the social and socio-ideological composition of this major pre-modern empire, and offers a combination of broad synthesis and detailed investigation that is both informative and intended to raise points for future debate. The Ottoman Worldprovides a unique coverage of the Ottoman empire, widening its scope beyond Istanbul to the edges of the empire, and offers key coverage for students and scholars alike. 


It has been a pleasure to edit this book, with regard both to its content and to its contributors. In terms of content, the volume is testimony to the enormous and very fruitful expansion of Ottomanist historical study in recent decades. To study Ottoman history as an undergraduate in the 1970s was to enter a completely unfamiliar and challenging world, exciting in its very difference. However, from today’s perspective it is clear that the books and articles available then were few in number, and that most writing was on the relatively narrow military and political history of a dynastic state. This was not by choice but by default, as at that time there seemed to be little else. Broader social history topics were thought to be impossible to study due to lack of sources; Ottoman historical studies were largely in a world of their own. By contrast, however, the student of Ottoman history in the early twenty-first century enters a dynamic, ever-expanding subject area which now presents a wealth of sources, topics and publications unimaginable to a previous generation.

This book began with a series of questions about the nature of ‘the Ottoman world’, its diverse societies and the ways in which these evolved over the period of the empire’s existence, both in their own terms and in terms of ‘being Ottoman’. Within these general parameters, contributors were invited to write about what they found most significant in their own subject areas. No attempt was made to provide a comprehensive coverage of topics, either chronologically or throughout the empire. Although several essays begin with a brief consideration of the relevant historiography, each develops according to its own priorities. The result is a stimulating variety of styles and approaches typical of current Ottomanist historical research.

As befits its subject matter, this book also represents a collaborative project of truly international dimensions. I am most grateful to all my colleagues, not simply for their willingness to contribute to this volume and for producing such informative and thought-provoking essays, but particularly for their patience and good humour in the face of the delays which are almost inevitable with such a large-scale project, and of the demands of a pedantic editor.

Specific thanks are due to Richard Stoneman, former senior editor at Routledge, who initiated this volume in 2006 as an essential part of the Routledge Worlds series by inviting me to edit it. I agreed to do so only after consultation with an infor-

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