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Reviewed by:
  • The Early Modern Ottomans: Remapping the Empire
  • Norman Itzkowitz (bio)
Virginia H. Aksan and Daniel Goffman, editors. The Early Modern Ottomans: Remapping the Empire. Cambridge University Press. xii, 364. US$30.99

This collection of twelve essays, including one each by the editors, Virginia H. Aksan and Daniel Goffman, is divided into four parts to [End Page 386] which is added a forty-five-page bibliography, independent of the academic apparatus found in each essay. Those forty-five pages can be considered a 'Who's Who, Who Was Who, and Who May Become Who' of Ottoman studies.

The first part, 'Mapping the Ottoman World,' has one essay, 'Imagining the Early Ottoman Space from World History to Piri Reis,' by Palmira Brummett. The second part, 'Limits to Power,' has four essays, 'Negotiating with the Renaissance State: The Ottoman Empire and New Diplomacy,' by Daniel Goffman; 'Information, Ideology, and Limits of Imperial Policy: Ottoman Grand Strategy in the Context of Ottoman-Hapsburg Rivalry,' by Gabor Agostan; 'The Ottomans in the Mediterranean,' by Molly Greene; and 'Military Reform and Its Limits, 1800-1840,' by Virginia H. Aksan. The third part, 'Evocations of Sovereignty,' has two essays, 'Genre and Myth in the Ottoman Advice for Kings Literature,' by Douglas A. Howard; and 'The Politics of Early Modern Ottoman Historiography,' by Baki Tezcan. The fourth part, 'Boundaries of Belonging,' has four essays, 'Inside the Ottoman Courthouse: Territorial Law at the Intersection of State and Religion,' by Najwa Al-Qattan; 'The Material World: Ideologies and Ordinary Things,' by Leslie Peirce; 'Urban Voices from Beyond: Identity, Status and Strategies in Ottoman Muslim Funerary Epitaphs of Istanbul (1700-1850),' by Edhem Eldem; and 'Who Is a Real Muslim? Exclusion and Inclusion among Polemicists of Reform in Nineteenth-Century Baghdad,' by Dina Rizk Khoury. The fifth part, 'Aesthetics of Empire,' has one essay, 'Public Spaces and the Garden Culture of Istanbul in the Eighteenth Century,' by Shirine Hamadeh.

The concept of early modern Ottomans does not hold together too well since the essays cover the Ottomans from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Is there such a thing as an early modern Ottoman, a middle modern Ottoman, and a late Ottoman modern? After all, the Ottomans had been borrowing from the West long before 1453. It is unfortunate that Daniel Goffman, an Ottomanist who could do periodization with the best of us, suffered a stroke before the compilation received is final structure and title. I am sure that all these little questions would have been dealt with earlier in the process of making the book.

Each of these essays is a study unto itself without much involvement with the essay(s) before or after it, especially where there is only one essay in a part. Space does not allow me to comment on each of the essays. I will only say something about several of them, and leave the rest for readers to enjoy on their own. Palmira Brumett's essay is primarily a discussion about how Europeans handled the mapping of the Ottoman Empire. Only two significant Ottoman mappers are talked about, the ever-discussed Piri Reis of the early sixteenth [End Page 387] century and Matrakci Nasuh of the mid-sixteenth century. A fascinating question for those interested in Ottoman makers of maps, including Piri Reis, is why the Ottoman sultans did not copy Prince Henry (the Navigator) of Portugal (1394-1460) and create a bureau for the production and safekeeping of maps. Selim I did not appear to have much interest in Piri Reis's map.

Daniel Goffman's essay is fine old diplomatic history with a new twist - trying to show the importance of the presence of the Ottoman Empire for the political and diplomatic history of Italy. Ottomanists have always paid attention to the invasion of Otranto, while some tried to cheer the Ottomans on to more success, to no avail. In his search for terminology, Goffman uses the term Muslim Ottomans, but was there any other kind of Ottoman?

Gabor Agoston's essay is a lively, detailed presentation of where and how the Ottomans and the Europeans gathered information. He makes good use of this material to support his notions of...


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