Trade in Wartime : The Business Correspondence of an Ottoman Muslim Merchant Family
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In spite of being buried in archives, rarely do historians strike gold. And I’ve heard from many a historian that when they do, micro-analysis of the documents take center stage at the cost of historical perspective. Aliye Mataracı skillfully combines both in a flowing narrative that does justice to her sources - an exchange of letters between a heretofore unrecognized yet long standing Muslim
Ottoman merchant family. In similar vein to Soviet historians dismissing the modernization of Russia under the Czars, the same fate befell the Ottoman empire. The two words, modernization and empire, were the twain that never would meet. It was with my generation of Turkish historians born after World War II that Ottoman studies for the country became a respectable subject in both academia and the public realm. It was also through their voices that, half a century after its founding, a critical distance could be taken to the Republic. Yet this same generation was still under the hold of the founding father’s ideology that the Republic was a fresh and progressive start in all aspects of life. Aliye Mataracı and a new generation of young Ottoman historians emphasizing the universal over the particular, are at the forefront of opening a new window to the Ottoman past where process and continuity take precedence over historical rupture.