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Jews among the Grandees of Ottoman Egypt

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Chapter Summary

The author discusses an entirely different population of Jews, in Egypt: the military grandees, usually holding the rank of āghā, whom narrative sources identify as converts to Islam from Judaism. Several such figures appear in various Arabic chronicles of Egypt - and, in Ottoman archival documents - between the early eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. They appear not to have originated within Egypt's long-established Jewish communities. Although a highly placed member of one of these communities, if obliged to convert, might receive a tax farm as reward or compensation, it was virtually unheard of for such a convert to ascend to the upper echelons of Egypt's dominant grandees. These grandees of Jewish origin seem to have comprised a tiny Jewish parallel to the hundreds of Christian converts from well outside Egypt who every year joined the military-administrative elite of Egypt, other Ottoman provinces, and the imperial capital.

Keywords: Egypt; eighteenth century; Islam; Jews; military grandees; Ottoman provinces



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