Ottoman Studies

Intensive “digging” into the Presidential Ottoman Archives and Robert College-Boğaziçi University Archives in Istanbul has proved to be extraordinarily interesting for the historical importance of Lake Marmara, the Gediz River, and early archaeology in the region (Bin Tepe and Sardis). Current archival research relates to the period between the late 16th and early 20th centuries. The Middle Gediz Valley is a rich territory for Ottoman narratives on climate change, agricultural production, wetland management, and property relations throughout the period under Ottoman rule. Waqfs (pious foundations) controlled major areas of the region. Princes residing in the palace of nearby Manisa from the 15th to the 17th century played major roles in the waqf management of agricultural land in the valley as well as of the waters and surrounding wetlands of Lake Marmara. Unique historical trajectories define land and lake basin management in the face of dramatic climatic shifts during the Little Ice Age. Current research focuses on the Halime Hatun waqf, which included major components of agricultural and lake resources (fishing, reeds, leeches, etc.). Revenue from taxes collected by the waqf funded the Halime Hatun complex in Gölmarmara, including a mosque, medrese, soup-kitchen, and hammam. These places are today part of Gölmarmara’s Ottoman heritage. The dynamic landscapes of the lake basin offer a hub for exploring the varying scales of global climate shifts among local, imperial, and inter-imperial actors.

In fact this research also gives us the opportunity to place this region firmly within the networks of 18th century Izmir, a major commercial port that connected the middle Gediz Valley to the wider world. This entry triggered increasing competition over land and lake management in the late 18th and thru the early 20th century. Here our work explores Ottoman and non-Ottoman merchants; tax-farmers who competed to gain access to revenues from Lake Marmara, the fertile land, and mines; Cossack refugees who settled in the region as early as the 1830s and made good use of their expertise of socio-ecological knowledge on wetland ecologies to compete with the predominantly Orthodox Greek fishing communities; and local ayan families like the Karaosmanoğlu, who held economic as well as political power in the region. While trying to access and control the resources in the valley, and especially of Lake Marmara, lake communities (intentionally as well as unintentionally) negotiated the micro-climate of the valley and the natural history of Lake Marmara within the context of changing climate and property relations, notably the Tanzimat shifts. This eventually resulted with the emergence of lake management policies.

Finally, another important and emerging part of our archival work focuses on the narratives of early archaeologists, from Bin Tepe to Sardis. We’re interested in their agendas, their engagement with modernity, their relationships with Ottoman officials, and the role of conservation and presentation in Turkey, from the late 18th through the mid-20th century.

Affiliated team personnel

Semih Çelik, Koç University