Turkey: Osman's Dream
Much of our recent work at ESI has been on Turkey and Turkey's relationship with the EU. So, any understanding of the modern geopolitics of this region and of the western Balkans needs an understanding of Turkish and Ottoman history. We think that Caroline Finkel's book, which was first published in 2005, is one of two excellent places to start. Finkel is an historian and writer. Hers is a big book but then Ottoman history and its relationship to the history of the rest of Europe is a big and complex subject. It's a book crammed with detail as opposed to Jason Goodwin's more colourful and literary introduction to Ottoman history which we have extracted here. Today much of the story of Turkey's recent economic boom has been intimately related to demand from Europe and one might say that it was ever thus. It was one of the reasons we chose this extract. The second was because it made us think of the work we did in Kayseri, where we identified the phenomenon that we called "Islamic Calvinism" and where textile manufacturing is at the forefront of the town's economic revival. In this extract Finkel discusses Turkey's economy in the early 18th eighteenth century:
The export of raw materials predominantly grain, wool, cotton and dried fruits to the nascent processing industries of western Europe was one of the marks of the new economic interdependency in which the Ottoman Empire was now beginning to share. Since the early seventeenth century the export trade had flowed mainly from Izmir, and Thessalonica gradually became the second largest export centre. During the eighteenth century cotton overtook wool as the leading Ottoman export commodity. For domestic consumption the Ottomans produced simple, inexpensive textiles in small workshops, but in the early eighteenth century also tried to reproduce the finer or more specialized cloths coming from Europe, both to reduce reliance on imports and to meet shortages. The rebellion of 1703 curtailed the manufacture of woollen cloth begun under the auspices of Rami Mehmed Efendi but production began again in 1709 and continued until it was eventually abandoned in 1732 because the quality was not sufficiently fine and the price could not compete with that of imports. State manufacture of sailcloth for the navy began in 1709 and continued through various vicissitudes into the nineteenth century. From 1720 the state also became involved in the production of silk, the preferred cloth of the rich, but could not compete with privately-produced domestic silk after mid-century.
Osman's Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire 1300-1923. Caroline Finkel. 2006.
[p. 341 / John Murray]