Ottoman Court Records (ser‘iye sicills): Literature Review and Bibliography

The sicils (Ottoman court records) have been utilized as a ‘historical source' in studying different areas of Ottoman history since 1930s. Considering the lively language of the records many historians have seen them very fruitful source to construct history of the Ottoman State and Society from ‘below'. Historians who approach to the sicils from this perspective have, no doubt, contributed great deal to historical studies that focused on the Ottoman politics, economy, and society. They at least presented to other historians daily experiences, though in a limited scope, of very different geographies located in the Ottoman territory. But many historical studies that are based on the sicils have neglected to a certain extent the questioning of historiographical side of their issues and of the sicils' ability to reflect the ‘fact or truth' of the information they gave and to represent the ‘local' in which they are placed. In this context, the present study points out some general deficiencies of these studies and suggests, in short, that the sicils, being just one source for certain problematique, should be read as a “text” and evaluated within a “context” in which they took place in order for their shortages to be minimized in reflecting the “truth” of information they gave and in representing the whole people and the period in which they existed. Besides, this study, specifically, implies very significant place of the sicils for the studies of Ottoman economy and gives a detailed bibliography of the existing literature of the sicils written in Turkish and English.

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