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Mass petitions as a way to evaluate ‘public opinion’ in the late nineteenth-century Ottoman empire? The case of internal strife among Gaza’s elite

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This article evaluates collective petitions (arz-ı mahzars) sent to Istanbul from Gaza at the end of the nineteenth century as a way of assessing the political mood of the elite in Ottoman provincial towns. Gaza was the theatre of considerable tension, cleavages, and rivalry among its elite. One of the key questions in this context is the implications of sending collective petitions from towns such as Gaza to the imperial centre given the political censorship and the absence of free press at a time when there was nonetheless greater communication between the centre and the provinces, and an altered relationship between the state and its subjects. Thus more than ever before collective petitions represented local political alignments and what could be very cautiously defined as ‘public opinion’ among the elite in provincial Ottoman towns such as Gaza.


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