Department of History & School of History, Religions and Philosophies

Dr Ceyda Karamursel

Key information

Department of History Lecturer in Middle East History
BA (Bogazici University); MA, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania); FHEA
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44 (0)20 7898 4602
Support hours
Wednesdays 11:00 am - 1:00 pm


I am a historian of the modern Middle East, with research and teaching interests focusing on the social, political, and legal history of the late Ottoman Empire and early Turkish Republic. I hold a B.A. in Economics from Bogazici University (Istanbul, Turkey) and received my M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, USA), where I was also a postdoctoral fellow at the Middle East Center.

My work explores the practice of slavery and elusive meanings of freedom in the late Ottoman Empire. In their broadest historical sense, I am interested to understand how such notions as freedom and equality before the law, which we so readily take for granted today, came into being and were understood, used, and abused by the Ottoman slaves, slaveholders, and the state. I am writing a book entitled The Sack and the Bowstring: A Global History of Ottoman Slavery and Freedom, which places and probes these questions in their wider global political and legal contexts.

In addition to my book, I work on a number of smaller projects, first of which traces the sewing machines’ arrival and reception in the Ottoman Middle East, with the specific goal of understanding how relations of production in particular, and capitalism in general, transported and transformed themselves to attain new lives in different social and political contexts. My second project takes an international legal dispute between the Ottoman Empire and Greece on stolen personal property as its point of departure to explore how different, presumably conflicting, legal systems worked with each other in defining what international property rights came to mean. The third and the final one, which also launches my second book project on how Ottoman concepts of slavery circulated in the Atlantic world in the nineteenth century, I follow the news of an American opera singer who was allegedly murdered in the imperial harem in Istanbul.

Supported by the Social Science Research Council and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, among others, my work appeared in New Perspectives on Turkey, Journal of Women's History, Comparative Studies in Society and History and most recently in the International Journal of Middle East Studies.


Research interests

Modern Middle East, Ottoman Empire, slavery and abolition, legal history, gender, race, citizenship, borderlands studies, material culture.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Miss Senem Gökel Leprosy, Empire and Exclusion: the case of Cyprus under Ottoman and British rules, late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries
Eyad Hamid The Idea of the Refugee in the Discourse and Practices of Humanitarian Organisations in the Ottoman Empire (1915-1926): The Near East Relief
Seda İzmirli Karamanlı Theodosia Sophroniades: An Ottoman Greek and Circassian Female Intellectual Espousing Women’s Rights In Late Ottoman Istanbul
Julio Moreno Cirujano Looking like a state: Materiality and Aesthetics in British Mandate Palestine


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