- Living in the Ottoman Realm: Empire and Identity, 13th to 20th Centuries ed. by Christine Isom-Verhaaren, Kent F. Schull (review)
- Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association
- Indiana University Press
- Volume 4, Number 1, May 2017
- pp. 212-215
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Book Reviews ChristineIsom-VerhaarenandKentF.Schull,eds.LivingintheOttoman Realm: Empire and Identity, 13th to 20th Centuries. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2016. Pp. xiv + 367 pp. illus. Paper, $34.99. ISBN: 978-0253019431. A link to a recent issue of World History Connected appeared in my inbox as such things have a habit of doing these days.1 It included a forum on “New Biographies in World History,” with an introduction and four articles designed to encourage the use of the lives of ordinary people in world history surveys. One of the essays in the forum, by Laura Mitchell, follows the career of Louis Lafite, “the kind of laboring man [soldier] whose role in empire-building was structurally unremarkable, one cog among the thousands in service who made the machinery of the Compagnie des Indes, the Armée des Indes, and thus the French empire, work.” Mitchell reconstructs Lafite’s life from his Atlas des cartes géographiques, which he compiled between 1776 and 1782, “fragmentary evidence of an unknown, un-famous, and un-influential man [that] directly addresses the friction between world historical scholarship centered on large-scale processes and the public reception of global history—where human interest often captures more attention than sweeping conclusions.”2 I am reminded of a Habsburg-Ottoman favorite of mine: Italian Comte Luigi Ferdinando de Marsigli (1658–1730), polymath, mapmaker, and Habsburg 1. World History Connected 14, no. 1 (2017). http://worldhistoryconnected.press.illinois .edu/index.html. 2. Laura J. Mitchell, “Illustrating Empire: a Soldier’s Life and Trans-Imperial Encounters in the Eighteenth Century,” in ibid. http://worldhistoryconnected.press.illinois.edu/14.1/forum _mitchell.html. Book Reviews 213 general, author of L’Etat militaire de l’empire ottoman (1732), whose biography exemplifies the return to narrative and agency as part of world history.3 Historians of the pre-modern Middle East have long experimented with writing up lives, but there are significant problems with telling the story in the pre-1900 context, largely having to do with multiple language archival depositories , nationalist histories, the paucity of written records of the ordinary and disputes about the veracity of the Ottoman archives themselves. A few predecessors of Living in the Ottoman Realm suffice to demonstrate earlier reliance on the written record. In Mary Ann Fay’s edited Autobiography and the Construction of Identity, for example, waqfs and biographical dictionaries, as well as the theoretical constructs of the late 1990s sensitive to life-writing, are well in evidence.4 Two other compilations of sources-cum-life, intended for the classroom, are Michael Amin Camron, Benjamin C. Fortna, and Elizabeth Frierson’s edited Sourcebook, and Akram Khater’s Sources. Both are modern in scope, roughly 1700 forward, mostly post-1800. Both readers are usefully mined to demonstrate the importance of documents and their creators to Middle Eastern history.5 The Edmund Burke and David Yaghuobian second edition of Struggle and Survival goes even further to integrate ordinary lives and world events.6 Lives of Ottomans as a classroom tool are a more recent development. Living in the Ottoman Realm: Empire and Identity 13th to 20th Centuries began as a four panel 2011 MESA workshop. The collection of papers was then arranged chronologically and framed for the classroom by editors Christine Isom-Verhaaren and Kent F. Schull. In their introductory comments, the editors explore the various critiques of identity as a category of analysis, proffering the famed sixteenth-century admiral Barbarossa (Hayreddin Pasha) as a model of the complexities of Ottoman belonging for the contributions that follow. The list of twenty-two authors includes most of the original panelists , with a few additions. Each piece runs seven to thirteen pages, and is followed by a select bibliography. Many are nicely illustrated. The volume itself ends with a collective bibliography (pp. 333–51). Part I: 13th 3. John Stoye, Marsigli’s Europe 1680–1730: The Life and Times of Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli, Soldier and Virtuoso (New Haven: Yale, 1994). 4. Mary Ann Fay, ed., Auto-Biography and the Construction of Identity and Community in the Middle East (New York: Palgrave, 2001). 5. Michael Amin Camron, Benjamin C. Fortna, and Elizabeth Frierson, eds., The Modern Middle East...