Mapping Ottoman Epirus: Region, Power and Empire
Mapping Ottoman Epirus is a project designed and coordinated by Ali Yaycioglu and Antonis Hadjikyriacou of Bogazici University, Istanbul, with the technical assistance of CESTA. The main aim of the project is to create a digital map, based on Geographic Information System and other digital tools, and visualize economic and political integration in Epirus (today in Western Greece and Southern Albania) within the Ottoman Empire in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As a result of the transformation of a complex set of economic, political, cultural and physical relations, Epirus became one of the most important regional economies and power-centers within the Ottoman Empire and of the Adriatic world from the 1790s. This regional formation collapsed in the 1820s, as a result of a political crisis in Greece and radical centralizing policies of the Ottoman administration. Historians of the Ottoman world still have an inadequate understanding of the reasons for this regional development during the so-called revolutionary period. The project, while intending to engage with this puzzle in a radically new and innovative way in order to solve it, it combines the insights of the largely distinct fields of Ottoman and Greek Studies, bringing together sources to create a massive data-set collected from diverse archival and non-archival material in multiple languages. Finally, in processing this material, it employs the techniques and methods from digital humanities, namely spatial and textual analysis. This project is also the first major step (and a test) towards a much larger digital humanities project to digitize social, economic, political and physical transformations of the Ottoman world, namely the Balkans, Anatolia and the Middle East, on the eve of modernity.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Ali Pasha of Ioannina and his sons built a regional dynasty in Epirus, just like many other regional powerholders in the Balkans, Anatolia and the Arab lands, that functioned within, but also in parallel to, the Ottoman Imperial order. Ali Pasha was formally an Ottoman Governor, appointed by the central authority in Istanbul. However, with this enterprise, he built an autonomous regional administrative and economic formation. In doing so, he built a center of governance in Ioannina, the capital of his enterprise; he gathered sizable army and militia forces; he organized a network of administrative cadre constituted by the Turkish, Greek, and Albanian fiscal and military experts, and a web of agricultural managers; he organized scribal bureau which produced Greek, Ottoman-Turkish and French documents for his interactions with local communities, other Ottoman powerholders, central government in Istanbul and foreign states.
Ioannina, Greece. Photograph by Ali Yaycioglu
This project aspires to shed new light into these processes by using the methods of spatial history and digital humanities in visualizing the breadth and depth of the network of economic, social and political governance. This will radically transform our understanding of how this regional formation came into being within, but also outside of, the official state apparatus. It enquires into how it developed, expanded, transformed, and eventually ended. The above-described sources will be mapped digitally in order to see, assess and understand the working of this very complex and multi-dimensional regional formation; its demographic structure, its internal and external (within the empire and beyond) branches; networks, groupings and enclaves within or connected to the region; the spread of economic activity, moments and places of negotiation, tension and violence; participatory mechanisms; communication patterns within and beyond, as well as the construction of the physical structure of the region through public buildings, military compounds, religious and educational complexes, road systems and bridges.
Zagori, Pindus Mountains, Greece. Photograph by Photograph by Ali Yaycioglu