Visual Sources of Ottoman Urban History

This essay surveys visual sources for the urban history of the Ottoman Empire, including maps, town views, photography, and painterly representations from both Ottoman and European sources. I have chosen to explore five broad categories of image: (i) Ottoman town views and topographic paintings; (ii) Ottoman architectural plans; (iii) European city views; (iv) orientalist images; and (v) photography. This is by no means a complete typology of visual sources, which would require an encyclopedic work. Rather, I aim here to identify some of the most essential sources (and secondary literature written about them) while at the same time suggesting some less conventional routes into the visual culture of urban space in the Ottoman Empire. For each grouping, I have given particular attention to the types of images, vantage points, and landscape themes popular at particular moments in the history of the Ottoman Empire, and social and political context in which the images were created and used. In this way we may begin to understand what these diverse images reveal about the urban world of the Ottoman Empire and different junctures in its long history of territorial expansion and contraction and political evolution.


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