Finished Summary Workshop “Various Aspects of Ottoman Diplomatic Relations” (Nov. 26)


Category: Workshop

Research Group: A02 Islamic Thought & KnowledgeB01 State Systems

The workshop “Various Aspects of Ottoman Diplomatic Relations” will be jointly organized by Group B01 “The Ideas of the Muslim Community and State Systems” and Group A02 “Changes in the World of Islamic Thought and Knowledge”.

Date & Time: November 26, 2021, 14:00-17:30

Akitsu Mayuzumi (The University of Tokyo/B01)
“Vassal State in the Ottoman Foreign Policy: The Case of the Black Sea Region in the Eighteenth Century”

Masako Matsui (Aichi Gakuin University/B01)
‘Ahdnāmes of the Ottoman Empire: Capitulations, Commercial Treaties, and Peace Treaties”

Discussant: Shinsaku Kato (ILCAA, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies/A02)
Moderator & Discussant: Nobuaki Kondo (ILCAA, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies/B01)

Language: Japanese
Venue: Online meeting via Zoom, Open to public/Admission free, Pre-registration is required.

Pre-registration: Please use the form for pre-registration.

Co-organizer: Grant-in-Aid for Transformative Research Areas (A), “The Ideas of the Muslim Community and State Systems” (Principal Investigator: Nobuaki Kondo (ILCAA); 20H05827)/Grant-in-Aid for Transformative Research Areas (A), “Changes in the World of Islamic Thought and Knowledge” (Principal Investigator: Jin Noda (ILCAA); 20H05825)

Contact: Madoka Morita (mmorita[at]



In this workshop, two speakers covered various aspects of Ottoman diplomatic relations. The first speaker, Professor Mayuzumi, introduced his work on the early modern Black Sea region with a specific focus on Ottoman tributary states, specifically the two Christian principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, and discussed how Ottoman diplomatic practices regarding this region bear relevance to the study of the Islamicate state system and international law—one of the main topics under exploration by Research Group B01 “The Ideas of the Muslim Community and State Systems”. Despite the actual incorporation of Wallachia and Moldavia into the Ottoman state by the early sixteenth century, their legal status remained ambiguous in that they belonged to neither the “abode of Islam” (dār al-islām) nor the “abode of war” (dār al-ḥarb) from the perspective of Islamic international law (siyar). Professor Mayuzumi proposed that the tensions between the legal ambiguity of these principalities and the actualities of their subjugation may offer an invaluable insight into the nature of the early modern Ottoman imperial order and the ways in which the Ottoman imperial center understood its relationship with these liminal entities, which at the turn of the nineteenth century began to be redefined as a “suzerain–vassal” relationship, a modern concept introduced from European international law.

The second speaker, Professor Matsui, introduced her work on Ottoman ahdnāmes (literally, “letters of contract”), which fall into two broad categories: capitulations and peace treaties. The former were commercial privileges the Ottoman monarch granted to his friendly powers, such as France, England, the Netherlands, and the Italian city-states, whereas the latter were truce arrangements made with his enemy powers, such as the Habsburg dynasty, Poland, and Russia. In contrast to the growing body of literature on Ottoman diplomatic history that has often tended to restrict the scope of research by focusing exclusively on one particular country from among those with which the Ottomans cultivated diplomatic relations, Professor Matsui’s research encompasses all of these countries to explore early modern interactions between the Ottoman Empire and its European counterparts, an approach that will in turn help to provide a better picture of how trust was built, developed, or lost between parties that belonged to different state systems. Her chronological examination of the ahdnāmes issued between the late seventeenth and the first half of the nineteenth century reveals a shift in their nature in the late eighteenth century where they were becoming more akin to modern treaties that would have no longer allowed the Ottomans to exercise unilateral revocation.

Following the presentation of the papers, comments were provided from comparative perspectives by two discussants. The first discussant, Mr. Kato, a research associate at the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa working on the dynamics of cross-cultural interactions that took place in the early modern Indian Ocean world, suggested that the comparability between the roles and functions played by foreign consuls resident in the Ottoman dominions and that of the East Asia Company officials stationed in Mughal India could act as a window through which to glimpse commonalities, if any, in the modes of actions, attitudes, and interactions that early modern Muslim states had with their non-Muslim counterparts. Mr. Kato also entertained the possibility of a further comparison by noting that in return for commercial privileges granted to the East India Company, the Mughal Empire sought to have the security of its subjects outside the Empire guaranteed, which would seem to be a similar form of reciprocity expected by the Ottoman Empire, albeit implicitly, from the foreign powers to which it granted ahdnāmes.

The second discussant, Professor Kondo, specializing in Iranian history and leader of Research Group B01, brought up for discussion the hierarchy of status among the tributary states and the level of diplomatic rights accorded to each of them by the Ottoman state as a means by which to shine further light on the dynamics of the early modern Ottoman imperial order. Professor Kondo also shared his expertise by pointing out that before the nineteenth century, the ahdnāme—originally a Persian word dating back to the tenth century—was not necessarily a letter of “contract” or “treaty” in the literal sense as we might understand it today, but was rather something either granted or requested unilaterally from one party by the other, and thus lacked bilaterality.

Further discussions then took place that were related to a wide range of issues including the textual and physical features of Ottoman ahdnāmes, the significance of the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca concluded in 1774 as a crucial turning point in Ottoman diplomacy in terms of its transition to modernity, and uncertainty as to the extent to which the Islamic conception of international order that is premised on siyar determined early modern Ottoman diplomacy and the international order it created.

(Madoka Morita)

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