In one of the first environmental histories of the Ottoman Empire, Alan Mikhail examines relations between the empire and its most lucrative province of Egypt. Based on both the local records of various towns and villages in rural Egypt and the imperial orders of the Ottoman state, Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt charts how changes in the control of natural resources fundamentally altered the nature of Ottoman imperial sovereignty in Egypt and throughout the empire. In revealing how Egyptian peasants were able to use their knowledge and experience of local environments to force the hand of the imperial state, Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt tells a story of the connections of empire stretching from canals in the Egyptian countryside to the palace in Istanbul, from Anatolian forests to the shores of the Red Sea, and from a plague flea's bite to the fortunes of one of the most powerful states of the early modern world.
"This book adds an important new dimension to the historiography of Ottoman Egypt. The author makes very intelligent use of Ottoman administrative documents and Muslim court records from a variety of Egyptian locales in order to situate this critical region within the new cutting-edge scholarship on the role of the environment and natural resource management in history."
- Jane Hathaway, Ohio State University and author of The Arab Lands under Ottoman Rule, 1516–1800
"Alan Mikhail deploys an impressive array of environmental history insights. He asks new questions and comes up with startling answers."
- Richard W. Bulliet, Columbia University
"Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt offers a history of the Ottoman world like no other. The force of environmental processes, the lived detail of peasant life, and the emergent forms of modern governmental power interact in this highly original account of early modern Egypt."
- Timothy Mitchell, Columbia University
"Through admirable and painstaking research, Mikhail has explored a new and fascinating aspect of Ottoman Egypt, using a timeframe that spans a transitional period, which allowed him to draw comparisons and provide original comments and provocative opinions that will stimulate future debate. This book is highly recommended."
- Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Introduction: an empire by nature
1. Watering the Earth
2. The food chain
3. The framework of empire
4. In working order
5. From nature to disease
6. Another Nile
Conclusion: the imagination and reality of public works
Appendix: citations for cases enumerated in Tables 1 through 4.
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Alan Mikhail is Professor of History at Yale University. His articles have appeared in journals such as the International Journal of Middle East Studies, the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Akhbar al-Adab and Wijhat Nazar. He is the author of The Animal in Ottoman Egypt.