Qualificationso f an Ottoman, According to the Advice Writers of the Seventeenth Century

By Linda T. Darling
Submitted to Session P2672 (Ottoman Identity, Part III (17th-18th C.): Transformation to an Administrative State, 2011 Annual Meeting
Hist
Ottoman Empire;
13th-18th Centuries;
The sixteenth-century Ottoman bureaucrat and historian Mustafa Ali complained that he could not be promoted to the offices he desired because the government was employing unqualified outsiders and promoting them in return for bribes. For him, a real Ottoman had a certain kind of education and properly followed a specific career path. Because his advice work, *Counsel for Sultans,* was so famous and so attractively written, his analysis was accepted as valid for the entire post-classical era of Ottoman history. According to the stereotype, the classical Ottoman meritocratic system, "The Ottoman Way," which took promising young boys from Christian families and educated them int he palace to become military commanders and state officials, broke down in the late sixteenth century, and something not truly Ottoman took its place.

This paper counters that construction of Ottoman identity by studying the advice works written after Mustafa Ali's to determine how their authors saw this problem Father than substituting a class analysis, as Rifaat Abou-El-Haj did in *Formation of the Modern State,* it seeks to determine how the advice writers themselves described these newcomers to Ottoman officialdom. Changes in the authors' concepts of who was Ottoman enough to obtain an official position and just what qualifications were necessary and sufficient reflect changing definitions of Ottoman identity at the upper levels of society during the first half of the seventeenth century. Drastic technological and economic changes, known as the Military Revolution and the Price Revolution, were forcing Ottoman institutions to adapt to new conditions, resulting in the replacement of timar-holding cavalrymen with infantry paid in cash, shifts in the state's taxation and procurement systems, readjustments in administrative employment, and the increasing importance in Ottoman administration of households other than the sultan's. Complaints in the advice literature reflect the ways elites profited from government service, and ultimately the identities of those elites and their qualifications for their jobs. These changes can be tracked through the standard advice works, some anonymous and some by writers such as Kochi Bey and Katib Chelebi. by examining these works in chronological order, this paper will build up a picture of changes in Ottoman official identities in the period 1580-1653.