Historiography in the Ottoman Empire Symposium

4 October 2022

Until recently, the narrative that has dominated academic studies on Islam and Muslims assumed that scholarly activities in the Islamicate world had lost their vitality since medieval times. Likewise, this perspective described the six-century-old Ottoman period, from the Middle Ages until modern times, as a period of stagnation and decline. However, the increasing number of revisionist studies have recently begun to question this biased narrative. With the goal of contributing to these novel academic studies, the İSAR has been organizing a series of symposia for seven years, each focusing on a particular branch of the Ottoman scholarly tradition and discussing its place both in the history of Islamic studies and in intellectual history at large. The first seven symposia, which were published as individual volumes, focused on theology (kalām), jurisprudence (fiqḥ), Sufism (taṣawwuf), exegesis (tafsīr), prophetic traditions (ḥadīth), Arabic linguistic sciences (al-ʿulūm al-ʿarabiyya), and logic and argumentation theory (mantiq and munāzara), respectively. The forthcoming eighth symposium will focus on “historical writing” in the Ottoman period.

While the writing of history in Ottoman times, which emerged by the second half of the fifteenth century, shared many elements with former historiographic traditions, it also differed from them in various aspects. While there are present examples of universal histories which aimed at covering the past, from the beginning of time until the authors’ time period, texts focusing on Ottoman dynastic history were also written. Some historical works focused on the histories of a certain period, of an event, or of a group of people. Ottoman historians produced texts in various kinds, genres, and styles, such as in verse or prose, concentrating on regions or the whole empire, and covering shorter or longer periods. The venture of Ottoman historiography started with Aşıkpaşazade, Neşrî, and Oruç Bey, continued with historians such as İdris-i Bidlisi, Kemalpaşazade, Celalzade, Ceberti, Mustafa Âlî, Selânikî, Hoca Sadeddin, Şa’rani, Katip Çelebi, and Peçevi, and reached modern times with chroniclers such as Naîmâ, Raşid, Ahmed Lütfi, and Ahmed Cevdet Paşa.

This symposium will focus on Ottoman historians, their works, and their own problems and issues concerning history writing, rather than the issues and problems of modern historiography today. Thus, the symposium intends to illuminate the lives of these historians, their traditions, sources, methods, and objectives. In addition, it also welcomes rereading attempts of Ottoman historical texts guided by newly developing approaches, such as conceptual history, the history of emotions, environmental history, and so on.

The symposium’s primary subjects include, but are not limited to, the following:

● Prominent Ottoman historians and their profiles (Muslim historians, non-Muslim historians, official historiographers, independent history writers)

● Ottoman historians’ understanding of history, their expectations from this science, and their ideas about the relationship between history and other sciences

● Historiographic traditions and historical sources

● Ottoman scholars’ motivations to write history

● Patronage relations and the material/moral benefits/risks of writing history

● Teaching and writing history

● The place of history in the traditional classification of sciences

● Genres of historical texts, such as universal histories, dynastic histories, chronicles, annals, regional histories, urban histories, etc.

● Biographical works, biobibliographical dictionaries, memoirs, diaries

● Historical works translated to or from Ottoman Turkish

● Classifications of historical texts and authors (chronological, regional, religious, ethnolinguistic, occupational, subject-based classifications)


Selected papers will be published as chapters in an editorial volume as part of the Ottoman Sciences Symposium series. Authors will be given additional time for fulfilling editorial requests following the symposium.

The symposium will be held in Istanbul and the languages of presentations will be either Turkish, Arabic, or English.

The travel and accommodation expenses of the presenters will be covered by our institution.

Abstracts should not exceed 250 words and should be emailed to symposium@isar.org.tr, along with the applicants’ contact information and academic CV.