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

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - JANET (Janissaries in Ottoman Port-Cities: Muslim Financial and Political Networks in the Early Modern Mediterranean)

Reporting period: 2020-02-01 to 2021-07-31

The objectives of JaNet revolve around three main research axes: The first axis is the creation of an analytical model of the administrative and social processes that led to the formation of local and trans-provincial Janissary networks in the Ottoman Empire; the second axis is the revision, through the examination of Janissary networking, of the currently existing deeply unbalanced view of the 18th- and early 19th-century eastern Mediterranean trade, one in which seemingly only non-Muslims, either from various Western European countries or from the Ottoman Empire, played an important role; the third axis is the examination of the mobilization of people and the exchange of ideas between Muslim communities of the Mediterranean, by studying the Janissary corps as an institution which facilitated the diffusion of political movements therein.
The project proposes an innovative approach in many ways, not the least of which being that it will produce a work of synthesis that modern research lacks. Through the use of a wide variety of archival sources, JaNet aims at creating an innovative entanglement of military, social, political, and economic history which can literally change our current perception of the early modern Mediterranean. Thus, it is expected that the project’s findings will have an impact on the historiography of a series of countries which comprise a large part of the present-day Mediterranean space. At the same time, by writing Ottoman political and economic history mainly from a provincial viewpoint, and by introducing a comparative frame of reference based on the examination of an institution present in most of the Ottoman Empire’s peripheral administrative structures, the project opens the way for the inclusion of even larger parts of the imperial space in relevant future studies. Furthermore, the bringing together of a team of promising young scholars, and the open and inviting toward the academic community character of the project are expected to create a nucleus of historians specialized in the Ottoman Empire and the Mediterranean, which can act as a strong impetus for future projects and collaborations, thus adding value to the output of the program. Last but not least, we anticipate that the project will have an impact on the contemporary public discourse on religious co-existence in the Mediterranean region. Especially today, at a time when religious differences and intolerance are accentuated and promoted in politics and public debates, a balanced and unbiased historical approach to the Muslim presence in the area becomes extremely topical. It holds the key for understanding the trajectory of areas and populations of different religions that have been culturally shaped throughout the ages by continuous interaction, a fact which tends to be forgotten in times of conflict.
All the collaborating researchers of the project and most members of JANET’s Advisory Committee had a first online kick-off meeting in September 2020 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.
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. A first survey of the existing bibliography will be available on the project’s website by January 2023.
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. Additionally, we managed to collect and use material from Sofia, Herakleion, Salonica,Tunis, and Kyiv.
The above-mentioned material is being recorded in the project’s relational database (WP3). As a result our database already contains records of almost 1,200 sources and several thousands of sub-records (prosopographical data, properties, transactions, etc.).
Dissemination processes (WP5) are also under way. Our web-site ( has been launched in February 2021, the publication in 2022 of a special issue in the journal Cihannüma and a collective volume on the Janissaries of Istanbul has been already arranged, while, despite the pandemic, we have already started presenting the project and the preliminary output of our research in lectures targeting a wide audience. Furthermore the PI has already submitted an article which has been accepted for publication and will present two papers in conferences, the proceedings of which are also going to be published in 2022.
In September, 2021 we organized our second workshop in İzmir Kâtip Çelebi University, which demonstrated JaNet's evolution well beyond the state of the art. The originality and high quality of all presentations led us to the decision to publish the proceedings as a peer-review issue of the journal Cihannüma. Moreover, we have already agreed with Kitap Yayınevi, one of the most prestigious publishing houses of Turkey in the field of history, to release a collective volume on the Janissaries of Istanbul within 2022. It is our conviction that both these works, together with the proceedings of JaNet’s international conference (to take place in 2024), the monograph which will be composed by the PI, and the various articles by the members of our team, will constitute a corpus of open-access publications which will drastically alter our current view of the role of Muslims in the Ottoman and wider Mediterranean commercial economy. We, furthermore, expect that our research will create a breakthrough in the way historians approach the processes that led to the creation of interacting Muslim local and diasporic communities, and the transference of people, ideas, and political movements among them. Finally, we anticipate that our open-access database will become a work of reference for all historians interested in investigating the Muslim commercial and political activity in the early modern Mediterranean, and a methodological standard for large data organization in the framework of Ottoman history.