Crime and Punishment in Istanbul, 1700-1800.

Author:Ergene, Bogac A.
Position:Book review
 
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Crime and Punishment in Istanbul, 1700-1800. By FARIBA ZARINEBAF. Berkeley and Los Angeles: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS. 2010. Pp. xiii + 287. $55 (cloth); $22.95 (paper).

Fariba Zarinebaf's Crime and Punishment in Istanbul, 1700-1800 provides an ambitious and interesting exploration of the legal history of the Ottoman capital, in a period that many researchers have recently come to recognize as transformative. The hook examines the social, political, and economic changes that Istanbul experienced during the eighteenth century and explores how these trends influenced legal processes and law enforcement practices. Zarinebaf's research is primarily based on Istanbul court records from select courtships and years (primarily the 1720s and 1730s), imperial orders, police and prison records, galley registers (which provide information on convicts who served their sentences in galleys as oarsmen), Ottoman chronicles, and Western accounts of the Ottoman state and society. The variety of the sources and the author's determination to utilize them in a comparative manner are praiseworthy. The reliance upon galley registers is especially significant since they have yet to be studied in a meticulous manner in the scholarly literature.

The main narrative is divided into three parts, each of which is comprised of three chapters. The first part provides a contextual backdrop for the study, reflecting on the overall character and the currents of the city. In this section the author outlines the major challenges that Istanbul faced during the eighteenth century. Intensifying rural migration increased the overall population and swelled the numbers of the poor and the underclass. This process, in relation to the deteriorating economic conditions due to frequent wars, wartime taxation, and high inflation rates, generated two main results. First, it amplified the numbers of criminal elements within the city and boosted the crime rates. Second, in the context of the consumption-and pleasure-oriented culture of the socio-economic elite during the Tulip Age--referring to the reign of Ahmed III (1703-1730), or, more specifically, to the tenure of the grand-vizier Ibrahim Pasha (1718-1730)--the increasing numbers of marginalized elements led to social polarization and violent conflicts. According to Zarinebaf, the two major popular upheavals of the time--the 1703 rebellion against Sultan Mustafa II and the 1730 rebellion against Sultan Ahmed III--should be...

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