Approaches to Pre-Tanzimat Political Thought in Ottoman History

Recently, historians have been showing an increasing interest in studying the long-neglected field of pre-Tanzimat political thought in the Ottoman Empire. Although the field still seems to be in its infancy, this scholarly interest has so far yielded a considerable body of literature that calls for a critical review and a historiographical introduction. The purpose of this study, however, is neither an exhaustive treatment of all relevant scholarly work, nor a thorough historiographical evaluation of the field, but a discussion of certain aspects of modern scholarship on the basis of a select number of published studies. The essay focuses on four main objectives: a critical survey of studies on Ottoman political thought pertaining to the pre-Tanzimat period that appeared in the past half century, an analysis of the main problems and shortcomings of this nascent field that is becoming a sub-discipline in Ottoman historiography, a discussion of the academic potential inherent in this field and ways of unearthing it, and some preliminary observations on the general characteristics of Ottoman experience in the history of political thought. To achieve these objectives, the article highlights major contributions in the field, stresses the indispensability of certain underrated sources of political thought, maps out the main themes that have prevailed in scholarly studies, examines influencial methodological approaches and philosophical perspectives, and discusses conceptual issues for the study of Ottoman political thought in the pre-Tanzimat period.


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