Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Brown University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Brown University
Cities of the Nile, Cities of the Sea: Ottoman Egyptian Ports in the Long-18th Century.

In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte launched an ill-fated and short-lived invasion of the Ottoman province of Egypt in order to secure French access to grain in the Mediterranean. Napoleon's campaign reveals an untold story of regional political economy linking the Ottoman state in Istanbul to Egyptian cultivators in the Nile Delta and French consumers across the way. Semi-autonomous military rulers in Egypt imposed monopolies on valuable agricultural commodities after 1760, fundamentally altering the terms of imperial taxation and regional trade. My dissertation analyzes these developments in the context of an interregional political economy based on the production, movement, and exchange of Egyptian agricultural commodities in the long-18th century. Taking the movement of Egyptian cash crops––rice, grain, and sugar––as a lens, I explore the activities of intermediary groups of merchants, brokers, and ship captains in the Egyptian port cities of Rosetta and Damietta in linking provincial agriculture into the geopolitics of imperial consumption. Ottoman responses to challenges of imperial provisioning recast our understanding of underlying developments––administrative reforms and commercialization in the eastern Mediterranean––that are typically ascribed to European military and commercial penetration of the Middle East. By focusing on the internal dynamics of the Ottoman economy in the Mediterranean, my project situates the Ottoman Empire within global developments in early modernity: commercial agriculture and the entry of non-elite groups into the political realm. Triangulating from a wide-array of little-used sources including court records, imperial orders and shipping registers, chronicles and travel literature, and consular reports in Arabic, Ottoman Turkish and French, I analyze challenges faced by Ottoman bureaucrats and the ability of local merchants, brokers, and ship captains to leverage their access to agricultural produce into political capital in Istanbul.