Travel Books as Historical Sources of Istanbul

Travel books, penned by travelers visiting Istanbul for a variety of reasons can be cited among sources illuminating the history of Istanbul. The events recited by the traveler serve to highlight the differences in well accepted knowledge and perceptions in cities and sometimes become the subject of the traveler’s imagination. These books, in the period they were written, mostly served those readers who did not have the means or the courage to travel yet were curious to find out more about the subject city or those diplomats who needed information on other cities for diplomatic purposes. In modern times, travel books have been of interest for both readers with desire to learn more about the city’s past and researchers in various branches of the discipline of history. It is surely important to consult travel books with an awareness of prejudiced or orientalist viewpoints, while trying to better evaluate the political, cultural and economic structures in related studies. Coming to the fore as a sub-branch of memoirs and penned in various forms, travel books describe Istanbul in many different languages. The personal characteristics of most travelers and elements such as their reasons for traveling, their itineraries have obviously determined the context of their observations. The traveling purposes of those travelers arriving at Istanbul via different itineraries are quite different. Ambassadors, merchants, slaves and scientists as well as those starting out just for the purpose of traveling reached the city by sea or by land. Some took the ship from the Mediterranean, Black Sea or the Danube, and some traveled along the land trade route extending into the city. This study will first analyze travel books helpful for urban historiography of Istanbul and then present a selected bibliography.


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