Plague, Quarantines and Geopolitics in the Ottoman Empire

Plague, Quarantines and Geopolitics in the Ottoman Empire

BİRSEN BULMUŞ
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt3fgqx4
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  • Book Info
    Plague, Quarantines and Geopolitics in the Ottoman Empire
    Book Description:

    Did you know that many of the greatest and most colourful Ottoman statesmen and literary figures from the 15th to the early 20th century considered plague as a grave threat to their empire? And did you know that many Ottomans applauded the establishment of a quarantine against the disease in 1838 as a tool to resist British and French political and commercial penetration? Or that later Ottoman sanitation effort to prevent urban outbreaks would help engender the Arab revolt against the empire in 1916? Birsen Bulmus explores these facts in an engaging study of Ottoman plague treatise writers throughout their almost 600-year struggle with this epidemic disease. Along the way, she addresses the political, economic and social consequences of the methods they used to combat it.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-4660-9
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Map showing the Ottoman Empire, 1914
    (pp. viii-x)
  5. CHAPTER 1 PRELIMINARY REMARKS
    (pp. 1-14)

    One day in the summer of 2004 I wandered down to the shores of Istanbul’s Golden Horn and saw a peculiar sight: a grand, yellow, nineteenth-century building sitting directly on top of one of the district’s most famous mosques. Right next to it was an equally elegant red-brown office, directly on the shores of the bay. International travellers to the city who come by boat have to go to these buildings even today in order to undergo medical inspection to see if they have contracted any epidemic disease. Certainly, most travellers to Istanbul before the mid-twentieth century would almost certainly...

  6. CHAPTER 2 CONCEPTUALISING PLAGUE IN OTTOMAN ISLAMIC THOUGHT
    (pp. 15-38)

    Religious debates on plague and the measures to take against it were of utmost importance in the Ottoman Empire until the 1838 quarantine reforms. Osman bin Süleyman Penah (d. 1817), a prominent medical official during the reign of Selim III (1789–1807) and an opponent of quarantine, understood that the best way to prevent the reform was to undermine its religious legitimacy. The Ottomans, the premier Islamic state from their conquest of Mecca in 1517 until the dissolution of the Empire in 1923, were vulnerable to his criticism that the plague was a blessing from God, to which all Muslims...

  7. CHAPTER 3 PLAGUE AND OTTOMAN MEDICAL THOUGHT
    (pp. 39-67)

    Although both Ottoman and European religious leaders often sanctioned the fight against epidemic diseases from the sixteenth century onwards, the Europeans undoubtedly adopted quarantine long before the Ottomans. Renaissance writers from Boccaccio to Fracastoro wrote of the contagious nature of plague, and a number of Italian city-states established quarantines as early as the fifteenth century to isolate those sick with plague.¹ Other European states – particularly maritime powers like England and France – adopted the institution during the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. London’s great plague of 1665 and the Marseilles outbreak in 1720 convinced many of the need to more strictly...

  8. CHAPTER 4 MAGIC AND PLAGUE IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
    (pp. 68-96)

    Another key aspect to understanding Ottoman notions of plague is that treatise writers until Hamdan’s 1838 reform frequently referred to magic or esoteric knowledge in a variety of forms to call on or channel the supernatural, or forces unintelligible to human logic, to alleviate human suffering or avoid death. Certainly, writers during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, such as Bitlisi and Taşköprüzade, cited the time-worn formulas of Ahmad al-Buni (d. 1225) and other believers in the ritual use of Quranic verses, words, prayers and talismans in an attempt to secure divine intervention to save one from the disease.¹ Ahmed...

  9. CHAPTER 5 HAMDAN BIN EL-MERHUM OSMAN AND THE OTTOMAN QUARANTINE REFORM
    (pp. 97-129)

    The 1838 Ottoman quarantine reform was truly a turning point in the Empire’s history of epidemic disease. One might gather that Sultan Mahmud II adopted the quarantine from western European advisers and physicians; as is evident from the recommendations presented to the Ottoman ruler with regard to implementation of the institution two years earlier by the Austrian doctor Anton Lago.¹ Egyptian rival Muhammad Ali had launched his own quarantine under the guidance of foreign officials some seven years earlier. Mahmud II’s predecessor Sultan Selim III had tried to do so in 1806. Many observers – Ottoman and Western – claimed that by...

  10. CHAPTER 6 PLAGUE AND QUARANTINES IN THE COLONIAL ERA
    (pp. 130-151)

    Hamdan’s belief that the internationalisation of the Ottoman quarantine in 1838 signalled capitulation to the British was ill-founded. From its inception, various interests clashed at the Constantinople Superior Health Council. Austrian physicians may have run the Constantinople Superior Health Council for a short time, but it was soon headed once again by an Ottoman president, whose administrative staff were often in conflict with the foreign members of the Council.¹

    Muhammad Ali (1769–1849), who started a process of modernising reform in Egypt in a bid to take over the empire itself, established a separate quarantine in Alexandria and other public...

  11. CHAPTER 7 PLAGUE, SANITARY ADMINISTRATION AND THE END OF EMPIRE
    (pp. 152-176)

    The Ottomans had fully embraced a new vision of plague and quarantines in the wake of the 1894 and 1897 International Sanitary conferences. This vision of disease indeed accepted Alexander Yersin’s 1894 discovery of the bubonic plague bacilli in Hong Kong as valid for justifying hygienic measures that sought to eliminate the ultimate cause of the disease: the filthy, unsanitary living conditions of ‘unmodernised’ societies. The only way the disease in question could be defeated was through governmental action. This meant establishing a sanitary administration that would not only establish hospitals to treat the sick through vaccinations and other modern...

  12. CHAPTER 8 TOWARDS A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF PLAGUE AND QUARANTINES IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
    (pp. 177-180)

    This book argues that Hamdan Bin El-Merhum Osman Hoca was indeed a pivotal figure in the history of plague in the Ottoman Empire, as his vision of quarantine as an instrument of national sovereignty had the most lasting political impact on the Ottoman medical reforms about epidemic disease.

    Before his time the Ottomans had an essentially premodern view of plague and other epidemic diseases. Although the Ottomans traditionally conceived of plague and health in ways that that did not contradict their ruling Islamic faith, they reacted to the Black Death and later outbreaks of plague much in the same way...

  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 181-190)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 191-198)