Empire, Law, and Citizenship in the Middle East and the Balkans

Key information

Module not running
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History

Module overview

This course aims to place the history of the Ottoman Middle East and the Balkans within its broader global context, paying specific attention to the legal, political, and social change that the region went through from early nineteenth century onwards. Beginning with the tumultuous decades that followed the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna and the new political-legal order that emerged in their aftermath, it explores the Ottoman state and society not only through a chronological narrative of political and military developments and events, but through analyses of longer cycles of social and political change and themes that are dominant in each of these cycles: structures of the new political-legal order that emerged after the Congress of Vienna, dynamics of the new moral order that shaped after the Greek War of Independence, contested notions of freedom and their legal implications, new forms of citizenship and nationality etc. Organized both thematically and chronologically, weekly reading assignments aim to deal with the historical and historiographical issues on the late Ottoman Middle East and the Balkans, as well as tackling specific theoretical debates that relate to these issues. Each week’s readings are accompanied by an introductory paragraph and a set of questions posted in advance on the course blog, to help navigate and connect different issues, debates and approaches. The course will also make use of primary source material to expand and support each week’s discussion.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will gain:

  • Factual knowledge of the modern era Ottoman Middle East and the Balkans
  • Familiarity with dominant themes, issues, and processes, especially those that are legal in nature, that shaped the late Ottoman Empire and early Republican Turkey
  • Familiarity with different topical and theoretical approaches to the study of international law at the intersection of sociolegal history
  • Ability to analyse the notion of Ottoman legacy
  • Development of an analytical approach to the relationship between the Ottoman Empire and its successor states

Scope and syllabus

  1. Introduction and course overview
  2. A New Political-Legal Order
  3. Egypt, Greece, and the New Moral Order
  4. The Tanzimat
  5. Ottomans in Concert
  6. Contested Freedom
  7. Law and Citizenship
  8. International Law and Imperial Claims
  9. Empire and Race
  10. Vienna to Paris System

Method of assessment

Book Review of 1,000 words worth 20%, Research Paper of 3,000 words worth 80%.

Suggested reading

  • Virginia Aksan, Ottoman Wars, 1700-1870: An Empire Besieged (Routledge, 2007).
  • David Armitage & Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Age of Revolutions in Global Context, C. 1760-1840 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).
  • Karen Barkey, Empire of Difference: The Ottomans in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2008).
  • Lale Can, Spiritual Subjects: Central Asian Pilgrims and the Ottoman Hajj at the End of Empire (Stanford University Press, 2020).
  • Roderic Davison, Reform in the Ottoman Empire, 1856–1876 (Princeton University Press, 1963).
  • Selim Deringil, Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
  • Khaled Fahmy, All the Pasha’s Men: Mehmed Ali, His Army and the Making of Modern Egypt (American University in Cairo Press, 1997).
  • Lucien J. Frary, Russia and the Making of Modern Greek Identity, 1821-1844 (Oxford University Press, 2015).
  • Will Hanley, Identifying with Nationality: Europeans, Ottomans, and Egyptians in Alexandria (Columbia University Press, 2017).
  • Michael Christopher Low, Imperial Mecca: Ottoman Arabia and the Indian Ocean Hajj (Columbia University Press, 2020).
  • Ussama Makdisi, The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (University of California Press, 2000).
  • Mostafa Minawi, The Ottoman Scramble for Africa: Empire and Diplomacy in the Sahara and the Hijaz (Stanford University Press, 2016).
  • Umut Ozsu, Formalizing Displacement: International Law and Population Transfers (Oxford University Press, 2014).
  • Christine Philliou, Biography of an Empire: Governing Ottomans in an Age of Revolution (University of California Press, 2010).
  • Jennifer Pitts, The Boundaries of the International: Law and Empire (Harvard University Press, 2018).
  • Eve Troutt Powell, A Different Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain, and the Mastery of the Sudan (University of California Press, 2003).
  • Ariel Salzmann, Tocqueville in the Ottoman Empire: Rival Paths to the Modern State (Brill, 2003).
  • Elizabeth F. Thompson, Justice Interrupted: The Struggle for Constitutional Government in the Middle East (Harvard University Press, 2013).
  • Brian E. Vick, The Congress of Vienna: Power and Politics after Napoleon (Harvard University Press, 2014).
  • Keith David Watenpaugh, Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism (University of California Press, 2015).
  • Eric D. Weitz, A World Divided: The Global Struggle for Human Rights in the Age of Nation-States (Princeton University Press, 2019).
  • Ali Yaycioglu, Partners of the Empire: The Crisis of the Ottoman Order in the Age of Revolutions (Stanford University Press, 2016).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules