Slavery and Manumission in Ottoman Galata

hosted by Chris Gratien and Nir Shafir

The legal and social environments surrounding slavery and manumission during the early modern period varied from place to place and profession to profession. In this episode, Nur Sobers-Khan presents her exciting research on the lives of a particular population of slaves in Ottoman Galata during the late sixteenth century, how they were classified and documented under Ottoman law, and the terms by which they were able to achieve their freedom.

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Nur Sobers-Khan completed a PhD in Ottoman History at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at University of Cambridge. Dr. Sobers-Khan was formerly a curator for Persian manuscripts at the British Library. She is currently a curator at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. (see
Chris Gratien is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University researching the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. (see
Nir Shafir is a doctoral candidate at UCLA focusing on the history of knowledge and science in the early modern Middle East. He also runs the website HAZİNE, which profiles different archives, libraries, and museums that house sources on the Islamic world. (see

Episode No. 181
Release Date: 11 December 2014
Location: Cihangir, Istanbul
Editing and Production: Chris Gratien
Bibliography courtesy of Nur Sobers-Khan (see below)
Musical excerpts: İnci Çayırlı - Kıskanıyorum  ; İlhan Kızılay - Örenli Gelin

This episode is part of our series on Urban Space in the Ottoman World

Citation: "Slavery and Manumission in Ottoman Galata," Nur Sobers-Khan, Chris Gratien, and Nir Shafir, Ottoman History Podcast, No. 181 (11 December 2014)


Sobers-Khan, Nur. Slaves Without Shackles Forced Labour and Manumission in the Galata Court Registers, 1560-1572. Berlin: Klaus-Schwarz-Vlg, 2014.

Heberer, Michael, Osmanlıda bir Köle: Brettenli Michael Heberer’in Anıları 1585-1588 (tr.) Türkis Noyan (Istanbul, 2003)

Faroqhi, Suraiya, “Quis Custodiet custodes: Controlling Slave Identities and Slave Traders in Seventeenth and Eighteenth-century Istanbul” in Stories of Ottoman Men and Women (Istanbul, 2002), pp. 245-263

İnalcık, Halil, ‘Servile labor in the Ottoman Empire’ The Mutual Effects of the Islamic and Judeo-Christian Worlds: The East European Patterns (ed.) Abraham Ascher et al (New York, 1979), pp. 25-52

Sahillioğlu, Halil, ‘Slaves in the social and economic life of Bursa in the late 15th and early 16th centuries’ Turcica Vol. 17 (1985), pp. 43-112

Seng, Yvonne J., ‘Fugitives and factotums: slaves in early sixteenth-century Istanbul’ JESHO Vol. 34 (1996), pp. 136-169

Toledano, Ehud R., The Ottoman Slave Trade and Its Suppression 1840-1890 (Princeton, 1982)

Zilfi, Madeline, Women and Slavery in the Ottoman Empire (Cambridge, CUP, 2010)


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