Conversion to Islam in the Balkans: Kisve Bahas? Petitions and Ottoman Social Life, 1670-1730

By Anton Minkov | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
THE COLLECTIVE IMAGE OF NEW MUSLIMS WHO
SUBMITTED KISVE BAHASI PETITIONS TO THE
SULTAN, 1670s–1730s

Prosopography and the “Database Management System”
Method of Analysis

In chapter five, our analysis of the petitions was based on the super- structure’s data fields as combined in relationship sets rather than on the information controlled by each data field. Our conclusions, therefore, tended to be somewhat general—they were relevant to conversion as a process in the period 1670s–1730s and to the place of the phenomenon of kisve bahası petitions in it. The purpose of such an approach was to put the petitioners’ personalities in their appropriate social context. Nevertheless, as pointed out in chapter four, the value of the kisve bahası petitions’ superstructure and the “database systems” method of analysis to the historian lies in their ability to provide a “view” level of analysis, i.e., to channel infor- mation accumulated in the database of petitions, through the medium of the superstructure’s data fields. One of the possible “views” is of the data relevant to the personalities of the petitioners.

Having such data for several hundred new Muslims who submit- ted kisve bahası petitions to the sultan naturally raises the prospect of writing a prosopographic or group biography survey of those peo- ple as a social group. Prosopograhy is a new approach to Ottoman historiography. According to Metin Kunt, prosopography is used to study, by means of biographical data, “a specific group in terms of, for example, its position in society, its function, its importance, its political or economic power, and its role in social or political change.”1 This method has only been utilized so far to study social groups in the Ottoman upper stratum—the ulema2 and the military

1 Kunt, Sultan’s Servants, xvi.

2 N. Itzkowitz and Joel Shinder, “The Office of Şeyh ül–Islām and the Tanzimat— A Prosopographic Enquiry,” Middle Eastern Studies, 8 (1972), 94-101; Suraiya Faroqhi,

-166-

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