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Humans of the Ottoman Empire: Bureaucrats Proves To Be An Engaging Discussion

Political Power In The Ottoman Empire Is Explored With Dr. Findley and Dr. Sisman

Washington D.C. - On March 19th, Yunus Emre Institute hosted the third installment of the Humans in the Ottoman Empire series. This event featured guest speaker Dr. Carter Findley, and the series is moderated by Ottoman scholar Dr. Cengiz Sisman. Dr. Findley is an expert in Ottoman studies, particularly the workings of the Ottoman state.

Dr. Findley began the discussion by explaining the roots of Ottoman bureaucracy and how bureaucrats got their start in politics and administration. Much like today, bureaucrats normally got their start by networking with other professionals and were highly educated. Dr. Sisman asked about upward social mobility as a bureaucrat in the Ottoman Empire and Dr. Findley explained that there was social mobility but it was limited. Administrators enjoyed a good deal of job security but their prospects for serious advancement were very limited, though politicians and those who dealt with political matters had a much greater chance of ascending the social order. He described how the Ottoman system evolved out of many different cultural traditions like the Roman, Mongol, and Persian governing traditions, but the ultimate organizing principle of the Ottoman state was creating a just society under the rule of the Sultan. Many of the bureaucratic activities of the Ottomans were concerned with assessing and distributing justice to the subjects of the Sultan.

The discussion eventually went into some of the most prominent questions from attendees, which covered a range of topics. The first question that was dissected by the panelists was the role of non-muslims in Ottoman bureaucracy. Dr. Findley dove into that topic by explaining that non-muslim members of the Ottoman Empire had their place in the bureaucratic structure but it was normally in their institutions for foreign affairs. French was the diplomatic language of the day so many of the foreign correspondents of the Ottoman Empire were non-muslim French speakers that were engaging with their European counterparts. Another guest asked about the relationship between the central government and the cities of the empire. Dr. Findley explained that each city was its own ecosystem that cannot be easily shoved into a single category despite decades of scholarship attempting to do so. He cited the examples of Aleppo and Damascus, two nearby cities with completely different societies and views on administration.

Yunus Emre Institute’s guests enjoyed the discussion. Many attendees wrote that they were excited for the next installment in the series and the last installment of Humans of the Ottoman Empire is on Tuesday, March 23rd, at 12:00 p.m. EDT.

Yunus Emre Institute is a Turkish cultural center located in Washington, D.C. and around the world. The institute hosts events and programs that educate the public about Turkey’s culture, history, and language. For more information about the institute’s mission or online programs, please email or follow @yeewdc on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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