Between the Pen and the Fields: Books on Farming, Changing Land Regimes, and Urban Agriculture in the Ottoman Eastern Mediterranean Ca. 1500-1700
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CitationSopov, Aleksandar. 2016. Between the Pen and the Fields: Books on Farming, Changing Land Regimes, and Urban Agriculture in the Ottoman Eastern Mediterranean Ca. 1500-1700. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation goes “between the pen and the fields” in that it explores the relationship between the Ottoman discourse on farming as reflected in manuscripts, and the material and economic realities of farming shown in archival documents. Though a major focus is Istanbul and its surroundings, I also examine texts and documents related to agriculture in other regions across the Ottoman eastern Mediterranean. By studying farming treatises and manuals that were written, translated, copied, abridged, collected, and circulated in this region in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as well as works in more well known genres in which agricultural knowledge was also shaped, I examine an Ottoman scholarly discourse on farming not previously acknowledged. Over time, I argue, this discourse became more spatialized, vernacularized, and practically oriented, emphasizing firsthand experience and observation over the classical Arabic agricultural canon.
Agriculture in the Ottoman eastern Mediterranean before the nineteenth century has been characterized as stagnant or “traditional,” occurring in countrysides at a remove from mainstream commercial and intellectual concerns; yet the archival materials I discuss (study of court records, endowment deeds, tax surveys, surveys of agricultural laborers in the city, market price lists, etc.) show a more complex picture. They show that beginning around 1500, in certain regions—my study focuses mainly on Ottoman Thrace and the Balkans, but also other regions including Egypt—legal shifts concerning the status of land were connected with increased investment in farming by urbanites and members of the military class, including bureaucrats, scholars, and merchants. A new readership for scholarly works on farming thus emerged as well. On both state land, where urbanites were taking over the usufruct, and land belonging to charitable foundations, which was increasingly leased to urbanites with long-term contracts (even within the walled city of Istanbul), market-oriented farm estates, vineyards, orchards, and produce gardens were established. I show the ramifications of this in trade, consumption, environmental change (e.g. water usage), migration, labor, and agricultural discourse and knowledge. Spaces whose history this dissertation illuminates to a completely new degree are the urban market gardens of Istanbul, a few of which still exist today.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33840697
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