For 20 years now peasants have been almost completely absent from Ottomanist historiography. Since 1996 almost no major monograph has been devoted to Ottoman peasant history. This is in sharp contrast with the importance given to the study of Ottoman rural society and economy by earlier Ottomanist historiography. In his classic History of the Ottoman Empire, published in 1973, the doyen of Ottoman studies, Halil İnalcık, described the Ottoman Empire as a ‘peasant empire’. However, for the Ottomanist historiography of the beginning of the twenty-first century, it looks as though the Ottoman Empire was rather an ‘empire of difference’. This volume follows an initiative aimed at putting the peasants back on the agenda of Ottoman history. However, we do not seek (how could we?) to reinstate the historiographical status quo ante nor to attack the many achievements of contemporary historiography. Moreover, unlike the earlier approach of some ‘classic’ works on this subject, which focused on the state as a central actor in rural societies, our symposium sought to investigate economic and social relations in the countryside of the Ottoman Empire not only from the viewpoint of the central administration, but also from that of rural societies. In the present volume, our aim is to highlight themes that are still today unexplored or deserve revision, and throw light on the diverse trajectories of rural economies and societies in the long history and vast lands of the Ottoman Empire.
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