Towards a New History of Christians and Jews in Ottoman Society

In recent years, there have been significant developments in Ottoman history, Islamic history, and Eastern Christian and Jewish Studies, which promise to radically transform our understanding of the mechanics of communal identity in the Ottoman world.  For example, we now know enough about religious identity in the Ottoman Empire to know that the idea of a ‘mosaic society’ seems little more than a caricature of everyday life.  Where such communities were once regarded as organic, bounded units—the veritable ‘building blocks’ of the Ottoman Empire—scholars now acknowledge the porousness of these boundaries owing to a intermarriage, conversion to Islam, and the incidence of migration.  Where Christians and Jews were once regarded as ‘minorities’ in an Islamic society, scholars now doubt the usefulness of a legal category developed in the 20th century as a tool for understanding the pre-modern world.

Put simply, the time is ripe for a new, three-dimensional study of Christians and Jews in Ottoman society, one that cuts across social, intellectual, economic, cultural, legal and religious history.  Such an endeavour requires the collaboration of specialists working on different parts of the empire.  As part of the Stories of Survival project, a workshop will be held in Oxford in July 2017 with the express purpose of writing such a history.  The outcome of the workshop will be a book aimed at a wide readership, which promises to shape the research agenda for the future while also offering non-specialists a vision of Ottoman society that better reflects the developments of the past thirty years.

For a copy of the Call for Papers, click here.