Yıldız, Aysel; Spyropoulos, Yannis; Sunar, M. Mert
Janissaries have a special place in the history of Istanbul. For centuries they represented an important element of the imperial capital, shaping the latter's politics and economy, establishing deep ties with its inhabitants and enriching its culture. As they evolved into a large decentralized army present in most fortresses of the Ottoman empire —especially from the 17th century onward, their rapidly increasing numbers in the imperial urban space deepened and complicated their relations with the population of the cities where they were located. This was also the case with Istanbul where the Janissaries grew into an essential component of its economic, social, and cultural life.
This book attempts at studying the Janissaries from the perspective of their involvement into the 18th- and early 19th-century Istanbul's socioeconomic and political history, while avoiding to engage into the elitist, centralist, and reductionist discourse which —under the influence of the decline paradigm— has associated them with the image of a conservative reactionary group responsible for the empire's downfall. Instead, the contributors of this volume treat the members and affiliates of the corps as everyday people forming social relations and networks, and as political and economic actors who were in constant interaction with the society they lived in, changing it as much as they changed themselves in the process.
This collective volume has been published in the framework of the ERC-funded project “JANET: Janissaries in Ottoman Port Cities: Muslim Financial and Political Networks in the Early Modern Mediterranean,” a project dedicated to examining the functioning of Janissary networks in the Ottoman Empire, conceiving of them as inextricably connected to Muslim political and economic networks across a large part of the Mediterranean.