An Analysis of Ottoman Trade and Its Effects on the Longevity of the Empire – Update 1

While researching Ottoman trade, I came to the realization that this was a more difficult topic than I had initially anticipated.  It can be difficult to conduct solid research on such a topic if one does not understand the language.  Unfortunately I do not speak Ottoman, nor Turkish, nor even Arabic, so I was forced to rely on secondary sources as opposed to primary sources for the most part.  At this point I have collected and read most if not all of my secondary sources and composed a rough historiographical essay comparing them.  This essay will provide me with a rough outline for my final product, in which I will come to my own conclusions regarding Ottoman trade.

For my sources, I used mostly books that I found at the library.  The content of these books varied, as some looked at the Ottoman economy as whole, or even discussed the general decline.  Once I achieved a basic understanding of the Ottoman economy and its decline, I turned toward the more specific topic of trade.  For this, I looked more towards case studies of certain Ottoman industries performed by Donald Quataert.  These case studies included the railroad industry as well as the textile industry.

I chose my sources in hopes of covering both “big picture” and “small picture” analysis.  I divided my sources into two kinds of groupings–those with large historical questions that cover a wide swath of Ottoman decline and those with narrower approaches that focus on specific economic areas.  While all of these arguments or explanations for the decline of the Ottoman empire in regards to trade appear to be very credible, sources that manage to both look at the “big picture” and pay attention to small details are the most useful.  One such source that I found was Ilkay Sunar’s “State and Economy in the Ottoman Empire.”  He provided the necessary big picture of the decline while diving deeply into specific areas to prove his points, rather than skimming the surface. Although very thorough, case studies tend to be too narrow to stand alone.  However, the case studies have provided me with the most useful statistics for my research.  This was the focus of my historiographical essay: comparing “big picture” and “small picture” analysis.

My next step is to see if I can find any primary sources that have been translated.  I will most likely find an inventory of sorts, simply listing off various items that have been traded. I do want to look more into the boycott of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as this is a prime example of the Ottomans fighting against their decline, although the benefits they gained from this boycott were short-lived.  Once I find some primary sources, I will feel confident enough to begin drafting my actual research paper.