Rethinking "Decline" in the Second Ottoman Empire

Episode 300

hosted by Susanna Ferguson

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Did the Ottoman Empire "decline" after an initial golden age of rapid expansion and military conquest? This question has long haunted the telling of Ottoman history. Critics note that describing centuries of Ottoman history simply as "decline" makes it seem inevitable that the Empire would be defeated in World War I, emptying the story of the contingency and nuance it deserves. How else might we describe the nature of political, economic, and cultural change in the later centuries of the Ottoman Empire? What other questions could we ask? In this episode, Baki Tezcan describes the period he calls the "Second Ottoman Empire," between roughly 1580 and 1826, not as a period of decline but as one of political transformation. His story radically remakes existing narratives about the nature and history of Ottoman political authority and governance and offers an important alternative to the "decline thesis" that has haunted Ottoman history for so long.

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Participant Bios

Baki Tezcan is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of The Second Ottoman Empire: Political and Social Transformation in the Early Modern World (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and tens of articles and books chapters, and the co-editor of four festschrift collections. His next book is tentatively titled A Populist Reformation: Islam in the Second Ottoman Empire.
Susanna Ferguson is a Ph.D. Candidate in Middle Eastern History at Columbia University. She is currently working on a dissertation entitled "Tracing Tarbiya: Women, Gender and Childrearing in Egypt and Lebanon, 1865-1939."  

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Episode No. 300
Release Date: 17 February 2017
Recording Location: University of California, Davis
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Music: Katibim (Uskudar'a Gider iken) - Safiye Ayla; Harmandali - Recep Efendi, Cemal Efendi
Special thanks to Kara Güneş for permission to use the composition "Istanbul"
Bibliography courtesy of Baki Tezcan

Select Bibliography

Abou-El-Haj, Rifaʻat Ali. The 1703 Rebellion and the Structure of Ottoman Politics (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 1984).

_____."The Ottoman Nasihatname as a Discourse over 'Morality,'" in Mélanges Professeur Robert Mantran, ed. Abdeljelil Temimi (Zaghouan: Publications du Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Ottomanes, Morisques, de Documentation et d'Information, 1988), 17-30 [Revue d'histoire maghrébine 47-48 (1987): 17-30].

_____. Formation of the Modern State: The Ottoman Empire, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries. Second ed. (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005 [first ed., 1991]).

Andrews, Walter, and Mehmet Kalpaklı. The Age of Beloveds: Love and the Beloved in Early-Modern Ottoman and European Culture and Society (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005).

Kafadar, Cemal. "Yeniçeri - Esnaf Relations: Solidarity and Conflict." M.A. thesis. McGill University, 1981.

_____. "When Coins Turned Into Drops of Dew and Bankers Became Robbers of Shadows: The Boundaries of Ottoman Economic Imagination at the End of the Sixteenth Century." Ph.D. dissertation. McGill University, 1986.

_____. "On the Purity and Corruption of the Janissaries," Turkish Studies Association Bulletin 15 (1991): 273-80.

_____. "Janissaries and Other Riffraff of Ottoman Istanbul: Rebels Without a Cause?" In Identity and Identity Formation in the Ottoman World: A volume of essays in honor of Norman Itzkowitz, eds. Baki Tezcan and Karl Barbir (Madison: University of Wisconsin Center of Turkish Studies, 2007), 113-34.

Mardin, Şerif. "Freedom in an Ottoman Perspective," in State, Democracy, and the Military: Turkey in the 1980s, eds. Metin Heper and Ahmet Evin (Berlin & New York: W. de Gruyter, 1988), 23-35.

Quataert, Donald. "Janissaries, Artisans, and the Question of Ottoman Decline, 1730-1826." In 17° Congreso Internacional de Ciencias Historicas, Madrid – 1990. Vol. 1: Sección Cronológica, eds. Eloy Benito Ruano and Manuel Espadas Burgos (Madrid: Comité International des Sciences Historiques, 1992), 264-68.

_____. "Ottoman History Writing and Changing Attitudes Towards the Notion of 'Decline.'" History Compass 1 (August 2003).

Tezcan, Baki. "The Ottoman Monetary Crisis of 1585 Revisited," Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 52 (2009): 460-504.

_____. "The Ottoman Mevâlî as 'Lords of the Law,'" Journal of Islamic Studies 20 (2009): 383-407.

_____. The Second Ottoman Empire: Political and Social Transformation in the Early Modern World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Yaycioglu, Ali. Partners of the Empire: Crisis of the Ottoman Order in the Age of Revolutions (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016).


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