Abstract

ABSTRACT:

This article examines the networks formed by ransom intermediaries in Galata and Istanbul during the second half of the seventeenth century. Through a close reading of legal records from the court of Galata, it evaluates the formation, organization, and functioning of these ransoming networks and analyzes the relevance of their local foundations to the redemption of Ottoman captives in the Mediterranean. In the face of increasing piracy and corsair activities, thousands of Ottoman subjects traversing the Mediterranean were captured during this period. Since the direct intervention of the state was usually reserved for elite captives, many Ottoman captives had to be ransomed by other means. As the main commercial and diplomatic district of Istanbul and its doorway to the Mediterranean, Galata became a solution zone for the emancipation of these captives, whose relatives and friends appealed to the ransoming services of intermediaries in the district, most of whom were European. This article suggests that the local organization and functioning of ransoming networks on Ottoman soil were as important for the successful ransoming of captives as the connections maintained by intermediaries throughout the broader Mediterranean. As such, these local networks assisted non-state actors as they negotiated freedom and captivity.

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