The Ottoman Empire covered vast territories over three continents and for six centuries included a diverse population made up of people who spoke Arabic, Albanian, Armenian, Kurdish, Italian, Ladino, Greek, Romanian, Serbian, and Tatar, who identified as Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Yazidis. Who were the Turkish-speaking Muslims who made up the governing elite of this empire? Where did they come from? How did they negotiate the social, religious, racial, economic, linguistic, and gendered differences among their population? What kinds of sources tell us these things? What has shaped our image of the sultan, and is it accurate? What was this empire like and who were the Ottomans? We cannot hope to cover the whole of Ottoman history or the breadth of the empire in a single semester, but this course will introduce the Ottoman Empire, addressing these questions by looking at different aspects of its history, government, society, and culture. We will read primary sources that reflect Ottoman court life, imperial ceremonies, the empire’s legal and economic governance, and slavery, and that attest to the various experiences of its diverse populations; we will also look at imperial dedications and civic projects.
Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)