This course focuses on Middle Eastern history from the foundation of the Ottoman Empire on the borderlands of Byzantine Anatolia through its expansion into Europe, Asia, and Africa, creating a new cultural synthesis including the Arab, Armenian, Greek, Islamic, Jewish, Mongol, Persian, Slavic, and Turkish traditions.
The course starts with offering a background on the history of the Middle East before the Ottomans. The chronological survey of the period takes the first two weeks, leaving the rest of the term for the exploration of three interrelated themes: pre-modern imperialism, pre-modern identities, and the development of the early modern self and society.
With the feudal economic and legal structures it inherited, the Ottoman Empire was a perfect example of a pre-modern empire. The second part of the course will examine these structures and certain aspects of Ottoman imperialism in the Middle East, North Africa, the Mediterranean, Europe, and the Indian Ocean. How the Ottomans projected their imperial image to their rivals and subjects will be one of the questions we will address. Last but not least, we will discuss the limits of pre-modern imperialism in the face of the rise of merchant capitalism in northwestern Europe.
The third part of the course will concentrate on pre-modern identities. The Ottoman Empire presents one of the most diverse social entities of the pre-modern times, with its Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities which were sub-divided into further religious communities, such as the Gregorian and the Orthodox Christians, or ethnic groups, such as the Arabs, Kurds, and Turks. Needless to say, the people of the empire were also differentiated by their gender and socio-economic status. What makes this diversity of identities most fascinating in the pre-modern times is the ease with which one could cross most of their boundaries.
Finally, the last part of the course will focus on the development of the early modern self and society. A critical approach to the historical question of the Ottoman decline will lead us to new ways of looking at the history of the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One of the paths we take will make us observe that this period witnessed a proliferation of public spaces in Ottoman cities. Another venue we will follow is early individuation, that is to say the first stages in the development of the modern self. At the end, we will all re-consider the question of the impact of the West on the East as far as the question of modernization is concerned.
READINGS: None; the students will have access to all the readings on SmartSite.