- Bread from the Lion’s Mouth: Artisans Struggling for a Livelihood in Ottoman Cities ed. by Suraiya Faroqhi
This engaging collection of articles follows a general increase of interest in and new approaches to the research on guilds, crafts, and craftspeople in general and the Ottoman Empire in particular. As indicated by Suraiya Faroqhi in the introduction to this volume, a growing number of scholarly researches have been published since the editor finished her monograph on Artisans of Empire: Crafts and Craftsmen under the Ottomans.13 Faroqhi explains that over the past twenty years a new discursive understanding on guilds in the Ottoman Empire has been taking shape, connecting men—and sometimes women—with the material culture they produced. The volume currently under review follows that trend and discusses a broad range of topics related to the historical developments of guilds in the Ottoman Empire. Two attractive merits of this volume are that the authors discuss developments that range from as early as the fifteenth century to as late as the twentieth century and their geographical scope ranges from Hungary to Bursa and from Damascus to Cairo—though most of the contributions concentrate on Istanbul, an obvious result of the availability and great number of primary sources on the Ottoman Empire’s capital. The book starts off with the editor providing an overview of the state of the art in an impressive introduction, which is useful not only for this volume but also as a general [End Page 143] introduction to the most significant themes in the historiography on Ottoman artisans.
The book is subdivided into three sections. The first is the most comprehensive and consists of six chronologically arranged case studies. İklil Selçuk’s chapter discusses the process and timing in which hierarchically organized guilds started to surface in the context of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Bursa. Selçuk concludes that a broader transition in terms of centraliƵation, bureaucratiƵation, and specialiƵation in the Ottoman Empire introduced a marked difference in the organiƵation of artisans in the late fifteenth century versus the late sixteenth century. Géza David and Ibolya Gerelyes discuss the relevance of material culture for the study of social history by looking at sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Ottoman pottery found on Hungarian soil. They argue that ceramics can provide information on settlement and trade networks, as well as the level of organiƵation, regulation, and technical proficiency of artisans. Moreover, they can also provide clues on the presence of various ethnic groups and, to some degree, the level of interaction between these groups. Colette Establet focuses on Damascene artisans around the year 1700 by looking at inventory records of the qadis (judges). She indicates that the number of artisans and shopkeepers living and working in Damascus was high and that the intermingling of soldiers and common men was a daily reality, as was widespread poverty. Nina Ergin’s contribution focuses on the mapping of Istanbul’s hammams (Turkish bathhouses) and their employees and includes a set of maps that reveal the size and geographical distribution of Istanbul’s 177 hammams as registered in the record. Despite some shortcomings, including the lack of comparative data, these maps offer insight into the spatial distribution of hammams and the age and ethnicity of their employees, and thereby suggest a wide array of possible directions for future research. Suraiya Faroqhi discusses the work of artisans working in textile production in Bursa around 1800 and argues that poverty was the most common reality of artisans, though some managed to gather considerable wealth and social power. The last monography by Nalan Turna deals with Istanbul’s shoe guilds in the early nineteenth century and shows how changes in urban economic activity affected guilds as they struggled to maintain their monopolies during economic hardship. Reforms in the Ottoman Empire created new opportunities for the state and artisans.
The second part of the book starts with Gülay Yılmaz Diko...