The Center for Hellenic Studies is pleased to announce the online publication of Imperial Geographies in Byzantine and Ottoman Space, edited by Sahar Bazzaz, Yota Batsaki and Dimiter Angelov, on the CHS website.
Imperial Geographies in Byzantine and Ottoman Space opens new and insightful vistas on the nexus between empire and geography. The volume redirects attention from the Atlantic to the space of the eastern Mediterranean shaped by two empires of remarkable duration and territorial extent, the Byzantine and the Ottoman. The essays offer a diachronic and comparative account that spans the medieval and early modern periods and reaches into the nineteenth century. Methodologically rich, the essays combine historical, literary, and theoretical perspectives. Through texts as diverse as court records and chancery manuals, imperial treatises and fictional works, travel literature and theatrical adaptations, the essays explore ways in which the production of geographical knowledge supported imperial authority or revealed its precarious mastery of geography.
“The dialectical relationship between empire and geography has long been recognized. Empires are beneficiaries or prisoners of their geography, while specific imperial projects have shaped the content and effects of geographical knowledge across different periods. The essays in this volume represent a collaboration between historians and literary critics with intersecting interests in the imperial geographies of the medieval and modern eastern Mediterranean. These geographies are set within the extensive imperial and post-imperial space of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, two political and cultural formations which themselves contributed to perceptions of local and world geography. Although the comparative study of empire has received much impetus in recent years, it remains to a large extent focused on examples from the classical world or the modern European era. This volume’s attention to the space of the eastern Mediterranean centers instead on two empires that do not fit this chronological scheme, and whose contribution to the construction of imperial space has been relatively neglected, even though in terms of duration and territorial extension they are both remarkable.The volume approaches geography, or rather the multiple geographies of the area (the plural is necessitated by the divergent geographical notions and experiences), as a socially constructed body of knowledge. This means that the volume will largely leave aside problems of Mediterranean environmental history and historical ecology that have recently attracted considerable attention. Nor is cartography of central concern to this volume, even though some of the papers engage with questions of maps and mapping. The focus lies instead on the strategies, ideological contexts, and effects of the production of geographical knowledge, both material and imaginary. Through texts as diverse as Ottoman kadı court records and chancery manuals, imperial treatises on administration and works of fiction, travel literature, and dramatic adaptations, the essays explore ways in which the production of geographical knowledge supported imperial authority or revealed its precarious mastery of geography. Our interest lies mainly in the discursive construction of imperial space, and we bring to it a variety of methodologies: historical and literary, textual and theoretical, but in all cases explicitly ‘spatial’.”
Dimiter Angelov is Professor of Byzantine History at the University of Birmingham.