354 pages, 10 b/w illustrations, 5 maps
This is the first systematic scholarly study of the Ottoman experience of plague during the Black Death pandemic and the centuries that followed. Using a wealth of archival and narrative sources, including medical treatises, hagiographies and travellers' accounts, as well as recent scientific research, Nukhet Varlik demonstrates how plague interacted with the environmental, social, and political structures of the Ottoman Empire from the late medieval through the early modern era.
Plague and Empire in the Early Modern Mediterranean World argues that the empire's growth transformed the epidemiological patterns of plague by bringing diverse ecological zones into interaction and by intensifying the mobilities of exchange among both human and non-human agents. Varlik maintains that persistent plagues elicited new forms of cultural imagination and expression, as well as a new body of knowledge about the disease. In turn, this new consciousness sharpened the Ottoman administrative response to the plague, while contributing to the makings of an early modern state.
"[...] a book that tackles and raises major questions about Ottoman history and the hitherto under-studied subject of disease. Much as the subject of plague has been ascribed great importance within the historiography of medieval and early modern Europe, Varlik demonstrates that plague in the Eastern Mediterranean merits consideration as the focal point in the study of the Ottoman Empire and its capital in Istanbul [...] Whether continuing the study of diseases and their relationship with a transformation polity or exploring how cats became cuddly co-agents in an Ottoman reaction to repeated epidemics, Ottomanist scholars will return to Plague and Empire in the Early Modern Mediterranean World as an important source of new questions in the years to come."
– Chris Gratien, The Journal of Ottoman Studies
Part I. Plague: History and Historiography
1. A natural history of plague
2. Plague in Ottomanist and non-Ottomanist historiography
3. The Black Death and its aftermath (1347-1453)
Part II. Plague of Empire
4. The first phase (1453-1517): plague comes from the West
5. The second phase (1517-70): multiple plague trajectories
6. The third phase (1570-1600): Istanbul as plague hub
Part III. Empire of Plague
7. Plague transformed: changing perceptions, knowledge, and attitudes
8. The state of the plague: politics of bodies in the making of the Ottoman state
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Nükhet Varlik is Assistant Professor of History at Rutgers University, Newark. She is the author of several articles and is currently editing a collection of essays entitled Plague and Contagion in the Islamic Mediterranean (forthcoming). She is the recipient of an NEH Fellowship by the American Research Institute in Turkey, a Senior Fellowship from Koc University's Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations, and a Turkish Cultural Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship.