Islam and the Humanities

Conference 2014

Boğaç Ergene

Associate Professor of History, University of Vermont
Aga Khan Visiting Professor in Islamic Humanities, Brown University

Law and Legal Change in a Period of Flux in Ottoman History (17th and 18th Centuries)

This paper explores how the Ottoman legal system, institutions, and practices changed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Recently, Ottoman historians have intensified their efforts to better understand the socioeconomic dynamics and fiscal-administrative structures of this period. Once considered to be an era of general decline and degeneration, now the prevalent tendency in the field is to characterize these two centuries as an era of major institutional transformation and adjustment to new circumstances. These novel attempts of interpretation are based on impressive archival research and nuanced considerations of the information that this effort has generated in social, political and economic history. However, the progress achieved in these areas has yet to be attained in legal history-writing. Broadly speaking, Ottomanists have yet to provide a comprehensive depiction of the ways in which Ottoman law, legal institutions, and practices might have changed between 1600 and 1800. This paper represents a preliminary attempt in this general direction, by offering a critical survey of the available literature and considering how historians approached and discussed legal structures and practices during this period.


Boğaç Ergene is associate professor of history at University of Vermont and Aga Khan Visiting Professor in Islamic Humanities at Brown University (Spring 2014). He is the author of Local Court, Provincial Society and Justice in the Ottoman Empire: Legal Practice and Dispute Resolution in Cankiri and Kastamonu (1652-1744). He also published articles in International Journal of Middle East StudiesJournal of Economic HistoryHistory of FamilyJournal of Interdisciplinary HistoryIslamic Law and SocietyJournal of Family HistoryContinuity and ChangeEconomic History Review, and others.