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State and Provincial Society in the Ottoman Empire: Mosul, 1540-1834.

State and Provincial Society in the Ottoman Empire: Mosul, 1540-1834. By Dina Rizk Khoury. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Pp. 253. $59.95.)

Until the early 1980s, most scholarly writing on the Ottoman Empire tended to locus on the activities of the central state located in Istanbul. Such studies provided the broad framework necessary for understanding how the imperial system functioned as a whole. But, the emphasis on the center inevitably led to the neglect of provincial life in all its complexity. This Istanbul-centric perspective began to be corrected during and after the 1980s when Karl Barbir published his Ottoman Rule in Damascus, 1708-1758 (Princeton, 1980).

Dina Rizk Khoury's doctoral dissertation, "Land, Power, and Local Notables in the Ottoman Empire: The Province of Mosul 1700-1850," was completed in the late 1980s. She devoted more years of research in order to revise it for publication. Her book begins with the Ottoman occupation of Mosul in 1519, five years after Sultan Selim defeated the Safavids at the Battle of Chaldiran and two years after his defeat of the Mamluks and the occupation of Syria and Egypt. Mosul was soon incorporated into the empire and became a vital part of the rapidly growing regional economy of southeastern Anatolia. It also served as the ideological bastion of Sunni orthodoxy in the struggle against Safavid Shi'ism.

The first half of the sixteenth century was still a period of Ottoman expansion, and the state was organized as a Gazi, or "warrior state," in which the ruling sultan personally led his armies on campaigns. By the end of the century, this practice was being slowly abandoned so that after the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-1566), the sultans ended their campaigns, becoming sedentary and remaining within the palace walls, preferring to let their grand vezirs lead military campaigns. As a result, the Ottoman state became bureaucratic in character, and such changes were naturally reflected in the relationship between the capital and the provinces. In her informative and absorbing study, Khoury discusses in fascinating detail the operation of the state in the provincial setting of Mosul, located on the eastern fringes of the empire. She shows in concrete terms what state power meant to the various sectors of provincial society in Mosul.

It is true that a "large part of the raison d'etre of the Ottoman state ... lay in their success in organizing violence and waging war" (44). But, as Kate Fleet has persuasively demonstrated in her study, European and Islamic Trade in the Early Ottoman State: The Merchants of Genoa and Turkey (Cambridge, 1999), commercial relations were given priority by the Ottomans and contributed to their territorial expansion as well as the economic development of even the early Gazi state. Recent work by Palmira Brummett suggests that when the Ottomans defeated the Safavids and the Mamluks and conquered Syria, Egypt, and Mosul, trade was a prime factor in the expansion.

In her introduction, Khoury places her study in the context of an ongoing debate among Ottomanists regarding the relationship between the capital and the provinces as well as the whole question of decline. She then presents her evidence for the growing power of local forces in Mosul in the next six chapters and shows that, far from declining, Mosul flourished during these centuries. She argues that the spectacular growth in the local economy took place under the old system, and whatever controls Istanbul was able to establish receded in the seventeenth century. But, war with Safavid Iran, following the Treaty of Carlowitz in 1699, led to the militarization of the local economy and allowed some rural and urban groups in Mosul to accumulate capital. They soon became the intermediaries, used by the state to finance and provision its military operations against the Safavids. Local families, such as the Jalilis, rose to prominence as a result and established a virtual monopoly over the economic life of the province. During the first half of the eighteenth century, the expansion of tax farming created even greater support for the state, for it provided local merchants, Janissaries, and local officials with great opportunities to invest their capital.

Tax farming led to the decline of the old military elite, whose power had been based on the traditional system of timars (fiefs), and the rise of an urban-based elite of political households. Links between their families were strengthened further by the introduction of the malikane, or the lifetime tax farm, and these families--the Jalilis, the Umaris, the Yasin alMuftis, and the Qara Mustafas--dominated the social and political life of Mosul into the nineteenth century. They functioned as economic entrepreneurs and political power brokers, squeezing out the smaller and middle gentry drawn from the Janissaries, the ulema of religious scholars, Sufi shaykhs, and small merchants. The crafts also lost much of their autonomy, and, as the households invested in "artisanal" enterprise, the artisans were reduced to the status of renters.

These socioeconomic changes resulted in the transformation of the political culture of Mosul. In time, a culture of opposition to Istanbul developed that used Islamic discourse in order to limit the sultan's power, especially his power to tax land. This opposition culminated in the rebellion against the Jalilis, which, Khoury says, was not mere factional infighting but a broad-based movement spearheaded by an alliance of middle gentry, merchants, and leaders of the "artisanal" population against the monopolistic practices of the leading households. The rebellion took place just a few years before the great reorganization, which went on from 1839 to 1876 and is known as the Tanzimat. The groups who rebelled supported the Tanzimat reforms and saw themselves as the agents of the reforming state in Mosul. It is a pity that Khoury terminated her study prior to the Tanzimat; perhaps we can look forward to a sequel that will cover the period from the 1830s to the end of the Ottoman Empire.

Feroz Ahmad

University of Massachusetts at Boston
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Author:Ahmad, Feroz
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2001
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