On the literature of Ottoman Industry and Artisans

The studies on Ottoman artisans (esnaf) have, to a great extent, focused on the Ahi-Esnaf nexus, guilds, gediks, esnaf surveys and narh regulations. This study examines the implications of Ahi organization on Ottoman artisans, and the evolution of the artisan unions and gediks. The academic studies in this field that were started with Taeschner, Babinger and Köprülü, were further improved by Gölpınarlı and these studies covered the period until the 17th century. The ongoing studies have shown that the Ahi organization had continual impacts on Ottoman artisans in the post-17th century as well. This study also analyzes the literature on Ottoman industry. Until recently most studies have concentrated on the relationship between Ottoman worldview and industrialization. Whether Islam was an obstacle for industrialization or not was the focal point of these studies. With the opening of new archival materials, it became clear that the Ottomans were keen on industrialization and it was the lack of raw materials and inability to create new technologies, rather than Ottoman worldview, that were effective in the failure of Ottoman industrialization. The import of new technologies was quite expensive and led, not only in the late Ottoman History but also in the Republican Period as well, to the closure of many factories. Finally, the article calls for new studies in these two fields and gives a rich bibliography on Ottoman artisans and industrialization.


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