[P5558] Syria in Transition from Mamluk to Ottoman in the Late 15th - Early 16th Centuries

Created by Linda T. Darling
Sunday, 11/17/19 1:30pm


From medieval to (early) modern - the line between Mamluk and Ottoman around 1500 has been a hard and fast one in Middle Eastern studies for a long time, one that few scholars have had the temerity to cross. Recently, however, a reaction against that "eternal wisdom" has surfaced, and some have started to see, in place of a break, a transition. They have begun to insist that we need to look at Mamluk-Ottoman interactions other than warfare, to reassess the Mamluks' condition at the end of their regime, and to understand the consequences of the Ottoman conquest of the Arab lands in terms other than oppression and resistance. This panel, as part of that movement, brings to MESA some of the latest scholarship on the Mamluk-Ottoman transition in Syria.

The first paper discusses the relation of a European visitor to late Mamluk Syria, Ludovico di Varthema. His engaging description of early 16th-century Damascus, where he resided for some time, will be read in the context of contemporary Arabic sources and analyzed in terms of recent scholarship on the literature of travel. Having set the scene, the second paper analyzes landholding by the sons of Mamluks in light of the curious circumstance that while they were losing their access to iqta' land, at the same time they were able to dedicate considerable property in waqf. The paper explains why they were able to control property in this way and looks at how the change of administration with the Ottoman conquest affected the holding of land. The third paper discusses a growth in agricultural literature produced and consumed in this period in Cairo, Damascus, and Istanbul and examines the networks of writers and readers in this new configuration of capitals. The paper argues that the emerging discourse on farming displayed a heightened emphasis on practical knowledge and observation, and that this was related to increased investment in farming among both Mamluk and Ottoman urban elites. The final paper reformulates the conquest of Syria as a geopolitical shift in Syria's position and role in the eastern Mediterranean and reconfigures existing and new research within the context of that geopolitical shift. It is interested particularly in the economic consequences of the shift and their reflection in the extant Ottoman fiscal documents. Together, these papers open a new window onto the socio-economic and intellectual changes in post-conquest Syria.





Linda T. Darling

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

Aleksandar Shopov

(Binghamton University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Gul Sen

(University of Bonn)
Gul Sen received her PhD in Middle Eastern Studies (2012) at the University of Bonn where she has been teaching since 2010. Her research covers both premodern and modern periods from 16th century to present day with a particular interest in history...
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;