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Session R4830 ("Can You Read This One?" New Advances and Issues in Digital Recognition of Printed/Handwritten Arabic Characters), 2017
This presentation will discuss the development of an online database, Center for Collaborative Research on Ottoman Socio-legal Studies (CCROSS) exploring the 19th-century Ottoman legal transformation through published codices. Ottomans were a part of the global codification movement in the 19th century; starting earlier in the century and intensifying particularly in the second half of the century the Empire issued several laws and regulations in connection with the overall administrative and judiciary modernization in the empire. During this period, the imperial administrators also took on the challenge of codifying the Islamic civil and criminal law in order to standardize interpretation, implementation, and practice, and centralize the empire’s legal system within the hands of the bureaucracy and legislative bodies. The Empire published the results of this extensive codification effort first in 1851, under the title of Mecmua-y? Kavanin (142 pages) and then as two editions of a more substantive volume called Düstur. Ahmed Cevdet Pasha, who led the commission that drafted the new Ottoman civil code, and served as the editor of the first (582-page) edition of, Düstur published in 1863, emphasized the need to compile “all significant laws issued recently as a comprehensive volume” in his memoirs. A revised and expanded 904-page Düstur volume came out in 1866. Following the exponential increase in the amount of codes included in these volumes, the title became a regularly published series in 1872 that continued till 1940.
The central objective of CCROSS will be is to explore these first three volumes published in 1851, 1863 and 1866 by providing the complete texts, their translations, and critical commentaries on them; thereby digitally preserving and electronically disseminating these significant compilations of Ottoman laws and regulations for careful examination and intellectual discussion among international scholars of Islamic law, the Ottoman Empire, and comparative legal studies. The motivation behind this task is the need to understand the institutional context of Ottoman law in the 19th century Ottoman Empire, especially as modern concepts of legal codification and standardization were applied. As an open platform, CCROSS will contribute to a better understanding of the rhetoric of law by analyzing key texts in this significant period of Ottoman codification. The principles and presumptions that contribute to building persuasive legal arguments and their counterarguments, were negotiated by those in charge of producing the codes and regulations of modern governance. CCROSS will help identify such “commonplaces” of law in 19th century Ottoman Empire.