Zoe Griffith

  • Fellowship Dates 2015-2015
  • Research Topic The Egypt Merchants and Ottoman Trade in a Period of Transformation, 1750-1810
  • Fellow or Grant Type Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
  • Affiliation Pre-doctoral candidate Brown University

In the second half of the 18th century, a diverse group of Muslim merchants emerged as key players in the elaborate provisioning system that moved the produce of Egypt to the Ottoman capital of Istanbul. These men, known in official Ottoman correspondence as the Mısır Tüccarları, or “Egypt Merchants,” acted as human hubs in networks crisscrossing the eastern Mediterranean – procuring goods from brokers and local merchants on the ground, arranging for transport with port officials and ship captains on the coast and obtaining compensation from imperial bureaucrats in Istanbul to supply the Ottoman military, palace and capital city with Egyptian wheat, rice, lentils and sugar. The emergence and evolution of the Egypt Merchants and their extensive networks in the eastern Mediterranean reveal the vital role of commercial society in imperial affairs during a period of transformation in Ottoman administration and governance. This critical missing link in the history of Egypt in the Ottoman Empire explores the emergence and activities of the Egypt Merchants in the context of Ottoman geopolitics and administrative reforms between 1750-1810. It employs the Egypt Merchants as windows into port society on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast. It charts the networks of the Egypt Merchants from two angles: the study of Egypt’s primary Mediterranean port cities of Rashid (Rosetta), Dimyat (Damietta) and Alexandria and the commodities – specifically wheat, rice, sugar and coffee – that moved through these ports, linking the Egyptian soil to imperial markets and stomachs through webs of human interest. It suggests that the Egypt Merchants and the brokers, seafarers and officials who helped them move goods from field to port to Sublime Porte participated actively in maintaining imperial ties to the province of Egypt in the face of political breakdown between the imperial capital in Istanbul and Egypt’s provincial rulers in Cairo and challenges the legacy of Orientalist scholarship that privileges the dynamism of the West in writing the history of the Ottoman Empire and modern Middle East.

TopicsArabic & Islamic & Near and Middle Eastern Studies, HistoryThemePeople & SocietyHistoric PeriodOttomanLocationRed Sea


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