Extraterritoriality, Jews, and the Ottoman Twentieth Century

Episode 403

hosted by Nir Shafir

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Many students of Middle Eastern history know that that some non-Muslims subjects of the Ottoman Empire became "proteges" of European states in the nineteenth century and thus acquired extraterritorial legal protections. While we know the institutional history of extraterritoriality, the individual motivations and histories of those who chose to become proteges is relatively unknown. In this podcast, Sarah Stein speaks about what extraterritoriality meant to those Jews of the former Ottoman Empire that chose to take this path. In particular, it exposes the tenuous meaning of citizenship in the quickly changing legal world of the early twentieth century, as empires collapsed and new regime of borders and national belonging emerged.

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Contributor Bios
Sarah Abrevaya Stein is Professor of History, Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies at UCLA, and Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of UCLA’s Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies. A former Guggenheim Fellow, her award-winning books include Extraterritorial Dreams: European Citizenship, Sephardi Jews, and the Ottoman Twentieth Century (University of Chicago Press, 2016), Saharan Jews and the Fate of French Algeria (University of Chicago Press, 2014), and Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce (Yale University Press, 2008). She is also co-editor of four books, including The Holocaust and North Africa, edited by Aomar Boum and Sarah Abrevaya Stein (Stanford University Press, 2018) and Sephardi Lives: a documentary history, 1700-1950, edited by Julia Phillips Cohen and Sarah Abrevaya Stein (Stanford University Press, 2014). She is now completing a history that traces the story of a single Sephardic family across the globe and the arc of the twentieth century for Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Macmillan Publishers.
Nir Shafir researches the intellectual and religious history of the Middle East, from roughly 1400-1800, focusing on material culture and the history of science and technology. He serves an assistant professor of history at UCSD and is part of the editorial board of Ottoman History Podcast and curates its series on history of science.


Episode No. 403
Release Date: 26 February 2019
Recording Location: Santa Monica, Calif.
Audio editing by Nir Shafir
Music: "Bağlamamın Düğümü" by Necmiye Ararat
Images and bibliography courtesy of Sarah Abrevaya Stein


Part of the Portuguese registrations of Isaac and Julie Beja, c. 1913, 1925, and 1931. Isaac Beja was among roughly 2,500 Salonican Jews who acquired foreign papers during the Balkan Wars (1912–13), after which Salonica transitioned from Ottoman to Greek rule. In subsequent years Beja renewed his “provisional” Portuguese protection in Salonica and Paris; after his marriage, his papers listed his wife Julie and children Esther and Albert as dependents. To be a dependent of a provisionally protected person was to skate at the outer limits of citizenship. Portuguese protection was stripped from many Mediterranean Jews after a consular audit in the mid-1930s. Image and description taken from Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Extraterritorial Dreams, pp. 37-39.

Select Bibliography

Will Hanley, Identifying with Nationality: Europeans, Ottomans, and Egyptians in Alexandria (Columbia University Press, 2017)

Julia Phillips Cohen, Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Maurits H. van den Boogert, The Capitulations and the Ottoman Legal System: Qadis, Consuls, and Beratlis in the 18th Century (Leiden: Brill, 2005).

Umut Ozsu, “The Ottoman Empire, the Origins of Extraterritoriality, and International Legal Theory,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International

Law, ed. Florian Hoffmann and Anne Oreford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

E. Natalie Rothman, Brokering Empire: Trans-Imperial Subjects between Venice and Istanbul (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011).

Eyal Ginio, “ Jews and European Subjects in Eighteenth-Century Salonica: The Ottoman Perspective,” Jewish History 28/3–4 (2014).

Julia Clancy-Smith, Mediterraneans: North Africa and Europe in an Age of Migration, c. 1800–1900 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011);


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