Empire, Province, and Power: Chorbadzhi (Çorbacı) Networks in the Ottoman Empire, 1790s-1860s
AdvisorDarling, Linda T.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 08/18/2024
AbstractProvincial political culture in the Ottoman Empire went through multiple transformations and crises during the later eighteenth century leading to power reconfigurations in localities across the Empire. Although Muslim local notables (ayans) of this period have enjoyed a sustained scholarly interest, Christian provincial power holders such as the Chorbadzhis (Çorbacıs) have remained neglected despite their remarkable yet un-institutionalized roles in the Ottoman world. This dissertation examines the emergence of chorbadzhis and their rise to power through the rich web of networks they established. It explores their political, commercial, social and clerical networks, tax collection practices, identity shifts, and power negotiations with the Ottoman state that transgressed the assumed boundaries of the Millet system. Providing microhistories of individual Christian provincial actors like chorbadzhis, this dissertation offers an example of history writing that connects micro- to macro-scales. Using chorbadzhis of the Balkans in 1790s–1860s as a lens, this dissertation decenters the Ottoman Empire by shifting the focus from Istanbul to localities; from institutions to peoples; from Muslims to Christians and Jews; from communities to individuals; from official narratives to practicalities. Chapter I sets the theoretical background of the project, critically assessing the existing historiographies, paradigms, terminologies, and periodizations that neglected chorbadzhis. Providing a spatial distribution of chorbadzhis across the Empire, this dissertation demonstrates that Chorbadzhis were not confined to their local regions, but they were indeed an empire-wide phenomenon. Chapter II looks at how chorbadzhis ascended during the 1790s and consolidated their power around 1850s. Focusing on their roles in the provisioning system, this chapter argues that chronic banditry, disease epidemics, and long-lasting wars, and inter-imperial rivalry played a role in chorbadzhis’ emergence and expansion as the Ottoman Empire’s alternative local partners. Complementing the holistic analyses of the earlier chapters, Chapters III and IV bring specific chorbadzhi families into focus, exploring their local, intra- and inter-imperial, and even global commercial networks. By analyzing their encounters with various social and political actors including merchants, bandits, local priests, and state officials, these chapters reveal how these chorbadzhi families maintained their influence up until the 1860s. To achieve a multi-dimensional account, this dissertation utilizes sources from archives in Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Austria as well as published materials in a number of languages including Ottoman/Modern Turkish and Bulgarian along with major European and Slavic languages.
Degree ProgramGraduate College