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Religion, Trade and Bureaucracy in Ottoman Non-Muslim Diasporas


Admission requirements

Students should have successfully completed their propaedeutic exam and both second-year BA-seminars.


In the Ottoman Empire, there were many non-Muslim merchants, for example Jews, Armenians and Greeks, carrying out a lively trade in all sorts of goods. These Ottoman subjects formed diasporas by settling elsewhere, creating trade networks. Most of the studies on these diasporas focus mostly on these merchants’ connection with the states and societies where they were settled. This course will also focus on their origins (their pre-departure setting within the Ottoman Empire).

The goal of the course is to see whether there was an influence of state formation on the building of these commercial networks. We will explore three key fields: (1) religion, (2) trade and (3) bureaucracy , which in different times connected these groups. The course therefore distinguishes between three periods: (i) In weeks 1-4, we study the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when the Ottoman administration tried to provide an infrastructure for its merchant diasporas as part of its expansion, (ii) In weeks 4-8, we focus on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when primarily non-Muslim Ottoman merchants made use of European patronage in forming merchant diasporas, (iii) In weeks 8-12, the nineteenth century is analyzed, when the Ottoman administration sought to take a role in international trade with an active interaction with these diasporas.

By studying the interaction and interface between religion, trade, and bureaucracy over these three periods, we can understand the role of Ottoman and European states in the formation and functioning of the merchant networks. In addition to Ottoman Jewish, Armenian, and on a lower scale Muslim diasporas, the course will have a clear focus on Greek diasporas in Europe.

We will use the printed primary sources as specified in the roster, but also study other printed and original primary sources, alongside material sources (objects), depending on the language skills of the participants and their individual interests.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student can:

  1. divise and conduct research of limited scope, including:
    a. identifying relevant literature and select and order them according to a defined principle;
    b. organising and using relatively large amounts of information;
    c. an analysis of a scholarly debate;
    d. placing the research within the context of a scholarly debate.
  2. write a problem solving essay and give an oral presentation after the format defined in the Themacolleges, including;
    a. using a realistic schedule of work;
    b. formulating a research question and subquestions;
    c. formulating a well-argued conclusion;
    d. giving and receiving feedback;
    e. responding to instructions of the lecturer.
  3. reflect on the primary sources on which the literature is based;
  4. select and use primary sources for their own research;
  5. analyse sources, place and interpret them in a historical context;
  6. participate in class discussions.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

  1. The student has knowledge of a specialisation, more specifically; in the specialisation Economic History the worldwide interaction of trading networks in the early modern period, the nineteenth century industrialisation of the Netherlands in a worldwide perspective, and the political economy of a globalising economy in the twentieth century;

  2. Knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and techniques of the specialisation, more specifically; in the specialisation Economic History the use of economic concepts in history writing and insight in the interaction between policy and economy; the use of both qualitative and quantitative sources;

Learning objectives, pertaining to this specific seminar

The student can:

  1. Define diaspora in Early Modern terms and as a marker of identity (using interdisciplinary literature);
  2. Map out the relationship between Religion, Trade and Bureaucracy and the importance of this relationship for the social and economic relations between European states and the Ottoman Empire;
  3. Define, measure and characterize the role of state formations (Ottoman and European) for diasporas;
  4. Lay-out the theoretical blueprint to move the discussion about diasporas towards community-building.


The timetable is available on the History website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Lectures: 13 sessions (2 hours weekly) = 26 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 54 hours

  • Preparation oral presentation: 10 hours

  • Feedback session: 10 hours

  • Preparing topic-specific literature: 50 hours

  • Writing a paper (including literature and source study): 130 hours

Assessment method

  • Written paper (ca. 7200 words, based on historiography, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-5, 9-12

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-5, 9-12

  • Participation (including feedback sessions)
    Measured learning objectives: 6, 7-8


Written paper: 65%
Oral presentation: 15%
Participation (inc. feedback sessions): 20%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline


The written paper can be revised, when marked insufficient. Revision should be carried out within the given deadline


Blackboard will be used for: - communicating most of the weekly literature and sources.

Reading list

  • Suraiya Faroqhi and Gilles Veinstein (eds), Merchants in the Ottoman Empire, Paris, etc.: Peeters, 2008. (Several chapters of this book will be mandatory throughout the semester. The final chapter may be omitted.)

  • Ina Baghdiantz McCabe, Gelina Harlaftis and Ioanna Pepelasis Minoglou (eds.), Diaspora Entrepreneurial Networks: Four Centuries of History, Oxford; New York: Berg, 2005. (Introduction, Chapters 7 and 17 will be mandatory readings.)

  • Literature will be made available on a course shelf in the University Library.

  • Additional literature will be announced at least two weeks before the course starts (on Blackboard).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. Hasan Çolak