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Janissaries in Ottoman Port-Cities: Muslim Financial and Political Networks in the Early Modern Mediterranean

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - JANET (Janissaries in Ottoman Port-Cities: Muslim Financial and Political Networks in the Early Modern Mediterranean)

Reporting period: 2021-08-01 to 2023-01-31

The project JaNet investigates the economic and sociopolitical role of the Janissaries in the 18th and early 19th centuries through their examination as a complex of interconnected networks in the ‘extended Mediterranean.’ By studying the Janissary corps, the project brings forward a radically new historical analysis concerning, on the one hand, the role of Muslims in the Ottoman and wider Mediterranean commercial economy – a role largely ignored by the bibliography – and, on the other, the processes that led to the creation of diasporas and the dissemination of people and ideas among various Muslim communities in the area.
According to our thesis, in the period under examination, the Janissary corps became one of the main channels for the participation of various Muslim social strata of the Ottoman periphery in the Empire’s developing credit market and commercial life, as well as a gateway for their involvement in local and imperial politics. Moreover, it became a platform for the exchange of people, goods, and ideas between different localities covering a vast geographical area. When examined from a Mediterranean perspective, this view allows us to look beyond the information provided by Europe-centered sources and to drastically redefine the sociopolitical and financial role of Muslims in the area, an approach which historical analysis sorely lacks.
Literature review (WP1) has already produced a significant corpus of published sources, as well as secondary literature, classified in categories and currently inserted into a database by the members of the action team. Our goal is for a first comprehensive survey of the existing bibliography to be available on the project’s website (https://janet.ims.forth.gr) by January 2023, and to be updated from that point on until the end of the project.
Archival research (WP2) started on time with a focus on the archival collections the administration of which allowed us access during the extended quarantine periods of 2020 and 2021. One of the most important archival collections for the project, the Ottoman Archives at Istanbul, implemented an open-access policy during the pandemic which gave us the opportunity to do extensive research online and helped us draw most of the material which has been recorded so far in the project’s relational database (WP3). Additionally, we managed to collect and use material from seven more archives. However, the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine forced us to stop the collection of archival material from Ukraine and blocked our access to the Russian archives which we were planning to visit. Nonetheless, we have managed to collect a significant amount of archival material located in Kyiv.
All the above-mentioned archival material is being recorded in the project’s relational database (WP3). The quick and efficient creation of our database’s basic functions led us to engage in the recording of data much earlier than originally expected, and, as a result, our database already contains records of over 1,700 sources and several thousands of sub-records. Currently our software engineer is working on the creation of the tools necessary for data visualization, which will lead to the dynamic display of the indexed information in the form of maps, graphs, and charts.
Dissemination activities (WP5) are also under way. More specifically, the following dissemination actions have been taken:
a. Web-site: Our web-site (https://janet.ims.forth.gr/) has been launched in February 2021.
b. Workshops and resulting publications: So far the collaborating researchers of the project and the members of JaNet’s Advisory Committee have organized two workshops. The goal of the first online kick-off meeting in September 2020 was to discuss the action’s research directions. Although the workshop was originally planned to take place at the IMS/FORTH in Rethymno, due to the COVID-19 pandemic it was successfully reorganized as an online event. The second workshop took place at the Kâtip Çelebi University in İzmir in September 2021. The originality and in-depth analysis of the papers presented in the latter triggered great interest among the participants and, for that reason, it was decided for six of them to be published together with an introduction in a special issue of the open access peer-reviewed academic journal Cihannüma. The said 174-page issue was released in July 2022 under the title “Spyropoulos, Yannis, ed. “Insights into Janissary Networks, 1700-1826.” Special issue, Cihannüma: Journal of History and Geography Studies 8, no. 1 (2023).”
c. Participation in conferences and other academic events; resulting and independent publications: Even throughout the pandemic there had been considerable efforts to disseminate the project’s output, to inform the academic community and the general public of JaNet’s research, and to invite scholars outside JaNet’s team to talk about subjects related to our research. In this framework, apart from the 19 papers presented in the project’s two workshops, so far five lectures, and three presentations have been given in other academic events by members of the team and invited academics, targeting a multinational audience based in countries such as Greece, Turkey, the US, Australia, etc.
To the above-mentioned academic activities, we should also add our effort to popularize parts of our research’s output by contributing to the creation of an original theatrical play named “Ayşe-m: A Story with Janissaries and Vampires in Ottoman Crete” in collaboration with the ERC project “GHOST (GA no. 771766).” In the framework of the play which was presented in Rethymno in June, flyers were distributed which made special reference to the two above-mentioned projects, their goals and achievements.
Traditionally, works on the history of the 18th- and early 19th-century Mediterranean treat its eastern part as a sphere of commerce dominated mainly by the ‘colonial’ forces of Western states and the non-Muslims of the Ottoman Empire. In this vein, Muslim communities are still perceived to have been largely excluded from the rapidly growing long-distance trade in the region during the 18th century, while their entrepreneurship is examined with no systematic reference to the wider picture of economic activity between different Mediterranean localities. Similarly, the movement of people and the dissemination of ideas between Mediterranean Islamic communities has received little attention from the academic community. The JaNet project has the ambition to fill this gap: Having already indexed over 1,700 sources in its database, participated in numerous academic events, organized two international academic meetings, and published a number or articles, the JaNet team is breaking new ground in Ottoman history and is attracting the attention of the international academic community. The constant growth of our database, the forthcoming organization of two more workshops and an international conference, as well as the anticipated publication of two new collective volumes and the submission of a monograph to a major publishing house by the end of the project are expected to further produce an innovative entanglement of military, social, political, and economic history which can literally change our current perception of the early modern Mediterranean and the role that Muslim communities played in it.
Ayse-m theatrical play flyer p.2
2nd JaNet Workshop poster
Ayse-m theatrical play flyer p.1
1st JaNet Workshop poster