Food, Drink, Fine Clothes and the Good Things of Life: Consumption in the Ottoman Empire

updated at: published at:

Date: December 19-20, 2015
Time: 09.30-17.30
Place: santralistanbul Campus, The Board of Trustees Meeting Room

In conversation with:
Tülay Artan (Sabancı University)
Gülhan Balsoy (İstanbul Bilgi University)
Arif Bilgin (Sakarya University)
Marloes Cornelissen (Sabancı University)
Rosita D'Amora (Università del Salento)
Suraiya Faroqhi (İstanbul Bilgi University)
Malte Fuhrmann (Turkish-German University) 
Priscilla Mary Işın (Researcher-Author)
Philippa Lacey (University of East Anglia)
Rhoads Murphey (İpek University)
Hedda Reindl-Kiel (Universitaet Bonn)
Stefan Rohdewald (Universitaet Giessen)
Aslı Sağıroğlu Arslan (Erciyes University)
Özge Samancı (Yeditepe University)
İklil Oya Selçuk (Özyeğin University)
Ahmet Yaşar (Fatih University)

The symposium is organized by İstanbul Bilgi University Department of History. The language of the symposium is English and there will be no translation.


"Artefacts and records concerning artefacts have not been studied very often by Ottoman historians; yet they can tell us things that written sources never mention, particularly where trade and other inter-cultural connections are at issue. Thus in the case of certain textiles, advances in radio-carbon dating have shown that the importation of Indian cottons into Egypt was not a novelty of the 1600s, as we might assume when considering written evidence alone. On the contrary, Indian fabrics were already well-known in late Mamlūk and early Ottoman Egypt, in other words during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Moreover the relatively large quantities of broken Chinese porcelain found in the excavation of the Saraçhane neighbourhood in central Istanbul may have something to do with the downturn that İznik faience suffered in the early 1600s. Once again this conclusion is based on archaeology alone; for it is by now notorious that we have few Ottoman documents shedding light on the decline of İznik-ware – a development as distressing to the Ottoman historian as it is to the art lover. Our understanding of Ottoman social and cultural history can thus be significantly advanced by taking a closer look at objects – or barring that, at records which focus on the ownership of such objects in Ottoman cities, especially Istanbul. 

Inventories covering the estates of deceased persons, but also documents in the registers of local qadis and all manner of sultans’ commands certainly provide some evidence on Ottoman consumption; but as the study of this issue is a house of many mansions, contributors will presumably use chronicles, travelogues, images and many other sources as well.

In the present conference we will approach the subject of “Ottoman consumption” during the early modern period (about 1450-about 1850) using two main avenues: food-and-drink on the one hand, and clothes cum jewellery on the other. Limiting the topic in this fashion seems appropriate because apart from houses and other dwelling places, most people interested in Ottoman material life tend to favour these two types of consumption; and since the present conference had to be scheduled before the end of 2015, leaving very little time for preparation, it is probably best to focus on what seem to be the ‘majority interests’ – at least in the eyes of the present convenor."