“Piracy in the Early Modern Mediterranean: Ransoming Networks and the Emancipation of Muslim Captives.”
PhD Candidate Ali Atabey
In 1617, Fatma Hatun, an ordinary Ottoman woman, agreed to pay the Venetian merchant Pavlo to save her son, a war captive imprisoned on Chios Island. Fatma Hatun’s ability to contact Pavlo reveals various crucial points related to contact, fluidity, and interdependence in 17th-century Galata, the main commercial and diplomatic district of the Ottoman capital Istanbul. Due to the changing dynamics of the Mediterranean in particular and the world in general, the seventeenth century represents one of the periods with the highest density of captivity, corsair, and privateering activities. During this period, piracy became a well-established enterprise threatening all state-sponsored and individual operations. As such, hundreds of Ottoman subjects traveling within the Mediterranean for commerce, military missions, or pilgrimage had unfortunate encounters with pirates and lost their freedom.
This paper examines cases of ransoming registered in the Ottoman legal court records belonging mainly to the court of Galata and, to a lesser degree, to other courts in Istanbul during the second half of the seventeenth century. Ransoming and the diverse ways in which it occurred provides a fruitful avenue to shed light onto many crucial characteristics of Galata ranging from population dynamics and women’s involvement in the sociocultural world of the district to cross-religious and cross-cultural exchange and interactions between Europeans and local Ottoman subjects. Hundreds of cases in which Ottoman subjects appealed to European intermediaries with the hope of saving their relatives or friends from captivity from different parts of Mediterranean show that Galata was a major center of micro-diplomacy and both Ottoman subjects and Europeans utilized this characteristic of the district for their own ends. By analyzing these cases, this paper will both highlight the borderland and connection point characteristics of Galata and make some evaluations related to early modern encounters and diplomacy.
Where: César E. Chávez Building Rm. 406 A
When: Monday, January 30 at 12:15 pm
You are welcome to bring your lunch.