From Nomads to Sultans: The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1700

Spring 2015

HIME 3192

From Nomads to Sultans: The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1700

Joshua M. White

By the mid-seventeenth century, the Ottoman Empire stretched from the gates of Vienna in the west to Iran in the east, from Poland and the Crimea in the north, to Arabia and the Sudan in the south. Its territory encompassed the contemporary Middle East, most of North Africa, Turkey, Central and Southeast Europe. Its population was a polyglot mixture of religions and cultures.

 The impact of Ottoman rule continues to be felt today from the Balkans to the Arab world, and its story is an essential and inseparable part of world history and the history of pre-modern and modern Europe. Nevertheless, the Ottoman Empire continues to be caricatured in popular culture, forced uncomfortably into Orientalist stereotypes animated with bloodthirsty pashas, religious zealots, and tempting odalisques and presented as the antagonist in a Eurocentric triumphalist narrative—the mortal threat to Christian civilization that was ultimately defeated and defanged. At the same time, nationalist historians in the former Ottoman lands (including Turkey) have played a key role in (mis)shaping popular understandings of Ottoman history. We will confront the myths and misrepresentations head-on, tracing the history of the Ottoman Empire from its obscure Anatolian origins through to the end of the Empire’s expansionary period around 1700. In addition to introducing the major political and military events, we will explore some aspects of the social, economic, and cultural life of the Empire.

Readings are a mix of primary sources and scholarly writings. There are regular response papers, a midterm, and a take-home final exam.

Required Texts:

  • Caroline Finkel, Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire 1300-1923 (London, 2005).
  • Colin Imber, The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: The Structure of Power (New York, 2009).
  • All other readings will be available on Collab.

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