Environmental History of the Ottoman Empire

This article is part of the TRAFO series Emerging Topics. Insights from ‘Behind the Scenes’. Today, we put the spotlight on the workshop “Environmental History of the Ottoman Empire”, which will take place on May 29-30, 2020 at the Orient Institut Beirut. We talked to the convener Fatih Ermiş (Orient Institut Beirut) about the upcoming event. Please find more information on the conference here, the call for papers is still open till February 20th.

As the convener of the upcoming workshop “Environmental History of the Ottoman Empire”, how did you come up with the idea for this event?

The current research concept at the Orient-Institut Beirut is structured around the overarching theme of relations. Within this framework, each year we determine a different subject of focus. Last year this focus was neighborliness, whereas in the current year it has been determined as environment.

Environmental history in general and especially within Ottoman studies is an emerging and dynamic field, which attracts an increasing number of young researchers. Having seen this trend, we wanted to contribute to this recently emerging field.

Halfeti, Şanlıurfa Province, Turkey

What makes the Ottoman context a particularly interesting one for scholars interested in/working on environmental history – what is unique about the Ottoman Empire in this regard?

The history of the Ottoman Empire on the one hand promises rich and hitherto mostly undiscovered sources concerning environmental history, and on the other hand, the vast geography of the empire offers a great diversity in regard to environmental issues. Being situated in Beirut, we especially aim to include this geographical diversity in this workshop. The workshop is open to all researchers who show interest in the Ottoman environmental history and to all subfields of the Ottoman studies, especially historians, geographers, theologians, natural scientists, sociologists, political scientists, botanists and zoologists.

Which questions do you want to raise with your upcoming workshop and which future debates do you wish to encourage with your event?

Departing from the concept of relations, we would like to raise questions about the human-environment relations from a historical perspective. These questions may be related to theoretical approaches, urban and rural environmental history, measures to protect nature, environmental conflicts or climate and climate change.


Fatih Ermiş is research associate at the OIB since 2018 and is responsible for the in-house production of Bibliotheca Islamica (BI). He holds a doctorate from the University of Erfurt for his thesis “Ottoman Economic Thinking before the 19th Century.” His main research interest is pre-modern Islamic intellectual history, with a particular focus on intellectual endeavours in Ottoman lands. His research at the OIB focuses on a famous book of ethics, Aḫlāq-i ‘Alāʾī, written by the Ottoman scholar Qinālīzāde ʿAlī Čelebī (1510 – 1572).


Citation: Environmental History of the Ottoman Empire – Interview with Fatih Ermiş, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 20.02.2020, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/?p=22385.


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