New Trajectories in the Study of Early Modern Ottoman Historiography

Since the early 1980s, literature on early modern Ottoman historiography witnessed a significant expansion in tandem with the rising interest in narrative sources and archival documents. The research, especially during the last two decades, is characterized by the use of new sources and methodology, which in turn, enabled the examination of previously overlooked features and dynamics of early modern history writing. This review argues that the imprint of the new trajectories in the study of early modern Ottoman historiography is particularly manifest in two themes of research. First, the field has undergone a shift from an emphasis on the narrowly defined political function of history writing to the acknowledgment of the multiplicity of purposes, agents, and messages. Studies in the field of art history have particularly contributed to this transformation by expanding the repertoire of historiographical sources beyond textual materials and raising productive questions regarding the authorship and audience of official histories. Second, thought-provoking studies on seventeenth- and eighteenth- century historiography challenged the conventional categories of historian and historiographical work. Historiographers who were neither bureaucrats nor scholars integrated otherwise marginalized voices into the study of Ottoman historiography. Despite the promising developments in the field, there is still a lack of research on the theoretical dimensions and cross-cultural connections of early modern Ottoman history writing.

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