[P4522] Imperial State Practices and Local Perspectives in Early Ottoman Syria

Created by Charles L. Wilkins
Saturday, 11/19/16 8:00am


Despite great strides by scholars over the last half-century, the history of the Arab lands under the first centuries of Ottoman rule (1500s-1700s) remains greatly understudied. This panel addresses key questions in the research agenda for geographical Syria (Bilad al-Sham), ranging across political, social and cultural history and adopting a variety of sources and methods.

The first two papers investigate major challenges that Istanbul authorities faced in the extension of their power over Syrian society following the conquest in 1516 of the Mamluk Sultanate. Making use of Ottoman official correspondence in the 1530s, the first paper identifies and evaluates major problems in the early management of Syrian military cadres, many of whom were former soldiers in the Mamluk regime. The paper also investigates the changed relationship between Syria and Egypt; now separated from its former capital, Cairo, Syria enjoyed a shift in its imperial status relative to Egypt. Turning from the macro- to the micro-historical, the second paper follows the career of a Syrian Kurdish notable in Ottoman state service and in so doing evaluates the capacity of the Ottoman system to recruit and retain local elites. It illustrates a discretionary Ottoman practice whereby chiefly lineages, with their regional knowledge and influence, were brought into Ottoman state service with regional appointments but not wholly integrated into a system of regular, rotating appointments empire-wide.

Affecting interactions between the Ottoman capital and Syrian provinces were subjective perceptions of the other, articulated in writing by individuals possessing social and cultural authority and reaching a broad audience. The third paper examines the travelogue of Syrian Arab Badr al-Din al-Ghazzi (1499-1577) describing his journey through Anatolia to the Ottoman capital in 1530, less than two decades after the Ottoman conquest. Penned by a member of a prominent scholarly family with historic connections to the former Mamluk state, the text sheds light on the receptivity of those newly conquered populations to a new political master and the limits of their appreciation of cultural difference. The fourth and final paper also examines Damascene attitudes about the Ottoman dynasty but refines its inquiry to consider only views of Suleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520-66) that emerge from histories, poems, and other texts over a longer temporal span, the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. What emerges is an embrace of Suleyman not so much as warrior-hero but as founder of imperial institutions that they regarded as just and protective of their welfare.


Syrian Studies Association (SSA)





Linda T. Darling

(University of Arizona)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Malissa Taylor

(University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;