SUMMARY:Ottoman military and civilian elites were recruited from a wide variety of sources, from the sultan's household and the palace to members of the governing class, high-ranking or low, to outsiders with experience or technical know-how and even, according to commentators, to riff-raff and personal favorites of the great. But promotion did not follow automatically on success; whatever their background, these people did not advance in the Ottoman system on their own. Networking and patronage were the keys to advancement in the close-knit society of the empire's top ranks (and perhaps lower down as well). This fact is well-known, but the patronage networks of Ottoman society have not been well studied. This panel will delve into the processes of advancement and patronage in greater detail. These papers, covering military, literary, and career patronage in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, explore not only the effects of patronage on elite recruitment and promotion, but how these processes worked and how we learn about them in specific instances.
The papers in this panel move in chronological order. The first analyzes the career of the vizier, poet, and architectural patron Mahmud Pasha, who also supported the careers of most of the historians of Mehmed the Conqueror's time. The second discusses patronage networks among 16th-century seafarers, particularly those whose early careers were spent in North Africa, and the role of this patronage in advancing the careers of those who may not have had intimate ties with the great. The third paper evaluates the role of patronage through its absence, studying members of the lower ulema whose failure to obtain patronage kept them out of the higher ranks of the religious career. The fourth examines an alleged misuse of the patronage system, the charge made by some authors of advice works that in return for bribes the military was being flooded by the clients of the powerful, by tracking admission to military careers in the early 17th century. The final paper describes the creation of a patronage network within the scribal cadre in the late 17th century. Together these papers open up the Ottoman patronage system to view by later scholars and help explain how the empire cohered and moved forward in a period of consolidation and changing identity.