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History and Culture of the Ottoman Empire (1500-1900)


Admission Requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research), the MA History, or another relevant MA. While it is an asset to have proficient reading skills in modern Turkish (level B2 European Common Framework), students with little or no knowledge of Turkish but with an interest in and some familiarity with the Ottoman history and culture are highly encouraged. Students who are interested in taking this course, but who are not admitted to one of the relevant master programs and/or are not sure whether their knowledge of Ottoman history and culture are requested to contact Dr. A.T. Sen.


This course is a weekly seminar designed to familiarize students with select topics, debates, and sources in the study of the early modern Ottoman history and culture. As one of the most important Eurasian states that survived from medieval to modern times, the Ottoman Empire constitutes an integral component of Europe and Middle East. There is a vast literature produced in a host of languages on various aspects of early modern Ottoman history. Given the wide scope of topics and chronology that may fall under the study of the early modern Ottoman world, the thematic and temporal outlook of this seminar will be highly selective, and greater precedence will be given to the growing field of Ottoman cultural and intellectual history. Please be advised that this seminar will not provide a mere chronological narrative of Ottoman political and institutional history. Yet the gradually changing nature of the Ottoman polity, society, and culture will be strongly emphasized to escape from essentialist and ahistorical assessment of the Ottoman experiences.

Each week we will discuss a particular theme, revise the current state of scholarship on the relevant topic, and reflect upon a type of primary source for the study of the early modern Ottoman history and culture. The major themes and debates that will be revisited include:

  • Foundations of the Ottoman Empire,

  • Political Transformations and Changing Sources of Legitimacy,

  • Religious Cultures; Inter-religious and Intra-religious controversies,

  • Writing/Manuscript Culture and Practices of Reading,

  • Production of Science, Transmission of Knowledge, and Mobility of Scholars,

  • Urban Life, Public Space, and Changing Forms of Sociability and Entertainment,

  • Ottoman Reflections on Europe and wider Islamic world,

  • Languages of the Empire,

  • Legal Cultures and Seeking Justice in the Center and Provinces.

Course Objectives

  • to become thoroughly acquainted with the current state of scholarship on various aspects of early modern Ottoman history and culture,

  • to become familiar with the main reference works used in the study of the early modern Ottoman world,

  • to gain familiarity with primary sources needed to do research in early modern Ottoman studies,

  • to develop the ability to analyze and evaluate scholarship and/or sources for the purpose of formulating a scholarly argument,

  • to develop the ability to report on research findings both orally and in writing, in accordance with the basic standards of historical scholarship.



Mode of Instruction


Attendance and active participation to discussions are obligatory. As this course is a graduate seminar, it can only succeed if students take an active part in the weekly discussions. Students are expected to carefully read and think about the assigned readings before coming to class, and to participate in creating a lively and non-intimidating classroom atmosphere. Classes missed for a legitimate reason (to the discretion of the instructor who needs to be informed before the class) will have to be made up with an extra assignment. Being absent without prior notification can result in a lower grade.

Course Load

  • participation in courses: 13 x 2 hs = 26 hs

  • readings and preparation for classes = 110 hs

  • preparing 3 essays = 30 hs

  • preparation presentation and final essay = 114 hs

Assessment Method

  • Active Participation in Group Discussion and Oral Presentation (15%)

  • 3 Response Essays on Assigned Readings (15%)
    The purpose of the response essays is to enable students to critically engage with the arguments presented in the assigned readings. The length of each paper is c. 1000 words. Students will be free to write their response essays on any week of their choice, provided that the paper is turned in before the meeting of that week.

  • Final Paper and Oral Presentation (%70)
    Students are expected to produce a term paper, c. 4000 to 5000 words, that deals with a central question on early modern Ottoman history and culture, and addresses it in the light of modern studies and/or available published sources. Students are advised to start thinking about their final project and contact the instructor as early as possible. By Week 7, students will have to turn a one-page project proposal along with a preliminary bibliography. The last meeting of the class will be reserved for student presentations of final projects. These in-class presentations are crucial to enable students to receive feedback from both their classmates and the instructor before submitting the final version of their papers. The overall grade for the final project will be evaluated on the basis of the quality of the written work and student’s performance in presentation sessions.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.



Reading List

A detailed list of weekly readings will be handed out in the first class and all reading materials will be made available on Blackboard.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

(The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is a fictional date for administration purposes only. The actual date will be communicated by the convenor of the course.)


Dhr. Dr. A.T. Sen


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).