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The Ottoman Ruling Group and the Religions of its Subjects in the Early Modern Age: a Survey of Current Research

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Throughout the early modern period, the Ottoman ruling group perpetuated a social order based on clear-cut hierarchies; this emphasis on hierarchy governed relationships between Muslim and non-Muslim subjects, and between the ruling group and the tax-paying population, regardless of religion. Within this system—where everybody was supposed to know his or her place and, ideally, remain in it—there was room for ad hoc agreements. While flexible arrangements were often made by lower-level office-holders and but tacitly condoned by the central administration, a widespread sense of hierarchy ensured that improvisation remained within the limits set by a framework fixed by Islamic law and sultanic commands. This paper reviews the work dealing with the manner in which the Ottoman ruling group regarded the religions of its subjects, mainly Islam and Orthodox Christianity, focusing on the manner in which the Ottoman establishment conceptualized its own relationship to Islamic traditions of rule.

Affiliations: 1: Instanbul Bilgi University


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