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Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire, n°I

Auteurs : |
Éditeur : Holmes & Meier Publishers Date & Lieu : 1982, New York & London
Préface : Pages : 466
Traduction : ISBN : 0-8419-0519-3
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 145x220 mm
Code FIKP : Liv. Ang. Bra. Chr. 1678-1Thème : Religion

Table des Matières Introduction Identité PDF
Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire, n°I

Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire
The Functioning of a Plural Society

Benjamin Braude
Bernard Lewis

Holmes & Meier Publishers

For hundreds of years the Ottomans ruled a territory of great ethnic and religious diversity. How did this vast empire stretching from the Balkans to the Sahara endure so long? The contributors to this two-volume work examine the political and social arrangements that made possible the effective functioning of a polyethnic, multireligious society for more than four hundred years.
Written by eminent scholars from the Middle East, Europe, and North America, these papers soberly and objectively weigh the fundamental question of religion and community in the Middle East. Among the topics explored are: the nature of contact between Muslims and non- Muslims; the organizations and institutions of Christians and Jews; the relations between communal leaders and the state; and the interaction between the West and non-Muslim peoples. Using heretofore neglected sources in Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Hebrew, and Armenian, these essays provide a vital background for students of the area and its three great religions, as well as for those interested in the problems of minorities in plural societies.

Benjamin Braude is assistant professor of history at Boston College and research associate of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Bernard Lewis is Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton and a long-term member of the Institute
for Advanced Studies.


These essays grew out of a research seminar and conference on “The Millet System: History and Legacy," that was conducted at Princeton University during the spring and summer of 1978. The scope of the book is somewhat narrower than that of the conference. Unfortunately considerations of space and unity of topic made it necessary to omit papers which dealt wholly or mainly with post-Ottoman or non-Ottoman topics. We gratefully acknowledge our debt to all those who participated in the seminar-conference.

A grant from the Ford Foundation to the Princeton University Program in Near Eastern Studies made possible the convening of the seminar- conference. Additional grants from both the Ford Foundation and Princeton University helped defray the costs of publication. Certain other costs were borne by the office of the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Department of History, both of Boston College.

The faculty, staff, and students of the Princeton Program and Department of Near Eastern Studies were especially helpful in the organization of the seminar-conference. Particular thanks are due Mrs. Mary Craparotta, Mrs. Grace Edelman, and Mrs. Judy Gross.

We benefited from able graduate assistance. Alan Iser, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard, reviewed the manuscript for consistency. Alan Makovsky. Near Eastern Studies at Princeton, reviewed the bibliography. Shayndel Feuerstein, Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard, translated portions of the text from French to English. John Feeley and James Nealon of Boston College helped correct the galleys.

A special word of appreciation is due the late Morroe Berger who, as Chairman of the Program in Near Eastern Studies, first conceived this project and gained support for it. His death came before its publication. These volumes are dedicated to his memory.


Benjamin Braude and Bernard Lewis

For nearly half a millennium the Ottomans ruled an empire as diverse as any in history. Remarkably, this polyethnic and multireligious society worked. Muslims, Christians, and Jews worshipped and studied side by side, enriching their distinct cultures. The legal traditions and practices of each community, particularly in matters of personal status—that is, death, marriage, and inheritance—were respected and enforced through the empire. Scores of languages and literatures employing a bewildering variety of scripts flourished. Opportunities for advancement and prosperity were open in varying degrees to all the empire's subjects. During their heyday the Ottomans created a society which allowed a great degree of communal autonomy while maintaining a fiscally sound and militarily strong central government.

The Ottoman Empire was a classic example of the plural society. An acute observer of similar societies in South Asia defined them with the following description which applies equally well to the Ottoman world:

... probably the first thing that strikes the visitor is the medley of peoples. ... It is in the strictest sense a medley, for they mix. but do not combine. Each group holds by its own religion, its own culture and language, its own ideas and ways. As individuals they meet, but only in the market-place, in buying and selling. There is a plural society, with different sections of the community, living side by side, but separately within the same political unit. Even in the economic sphere there is a division of labor along racial lines.1

For all their shortcomings, plural societies did allow diverse groups of people to live together with a minimum of bloodshed. In comparison with the nationstates which succeeded them, theirs is a remarkable record.

In recent years, spurred by an awareness of the ethnic strife that plagues so many nation-states, scholars have turned to the study of ethnicity and ethnically diverse states. Unfortunately, much of this work has been historically and geographically limited. The Islamic world has rarely been included in such studies despite the fact that one of the most enduring polyethnic states was the last great Islamic Empire, that of the Ottomans.

In recent studies on the Middle East, the dominant themes have been nationalism on the one hand and modernization on the other, to the neglect of religious and communal issues. The continuing importance of religion and ...

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