Getting High at the Gates of Felicity

Episode 391

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The use of stimulants, what we now refer to as recreational drugs (marijuana and hashish – esrar and haşiş), in the late Ottoman world constitutes a lens through which one can observe multiple aspects of both the history of the Ottoman Empire and its historiography in its broader sense. The life and social dynamics of those involved in drug consumption contributes to sketching a picture of the social life of the Ottoman Empire and its capital and, in this sense, helps expand a field that is somewhat limited.

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Contributor Bios

Stefano Taglia is a Research Fellow at the Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences. He received his PhD in Ottoman History from SOAS, University of London in 2012. He is the author of Intellectuals and Reform in the Ottoman Empire, published by Routledge in 2015, and guest editor and contributor to the special issue of Die Welt des Islams vol. 56, number 3/4, “Ottomanism Then and Now: Historical and Contemporary Meanings.”
Taylan Güngör is a doctoral candidate at SOAS in London. His interests are in Medieval and Pre-Modern Eastern Mediterranean trading circles and his research is on trade in Istanbul after 1453.


Episode No. 391
Release Date: 1 December 2018
Recording Location: SOAS Radio Studios, London. SOAS Radio is an outlet for creative media and talent housed by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Run by alumni, current students and staff at the School, including volunteers from like-minded communities, SOAS Radio is dedicated to varied and original programming on world music, culture and current affairs.
Audio editing by Taylan Güngör
Music: "Ta paidia & Lamma Bada" by Muhtelif
Images and bibliography courtesy of Stefano Taglia

Select Bibliography

Akalın, Besim Ömer. Mükeyyifat ve müskirat dan afyon, kahve, çay, ve esrar. Istanbul: Mahmud Bey Maatbası, 1888.

Aynur, Hatice and Jan Schmidt. “A Debate between Opium, Berş, Hashish, Boza, Wine and Coffee; the Use and Perception of Pleasurable Substances among Ottomans.” Journal of Turkish Studies 31, no. 1 (2007): 51-117

Bahri, Muallim Şövalye Hasan. Esrarkeşler. Istanbul: Şems Matbaası, 1331.

Nahas, Gabriel G. “Hashish and Drug Abuse in Egypt During the 19th and 20th Centuries.” Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 61, no. 5 (June 1985): 428-444

Rosenthal, Franz. The Herb. Hashish versus Medieval Muslim Society (Leiden: Brill, 1971).

Sariyannis, Marinos. “Law and Morality in Ottoman Society: the Case of Narcotic Substances.” In Elias Kolovos, Phokion Kotzageorgis, Sophia Laiou and Marinos Sariyannis, The Ottoman Empire, the Balkans, the Greek Lands: Toward a Social and Economic History. Istanbul: Isis, 2007.


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