Friday, 22 September 2017

How the Ottoman Empire managed multiculturalism

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"An interesting new book, reviewed by one Barnaby Rogerson, makes the point that the Levant of the 18th century was peaceful and prosperous (and surprisingly libertine), because it was made up of “a grid of self-governing communities.” Integration between disparate communities was not enforced. And surprise, surprise: communities freely chose to live in complete segregation. This freedom fostered “remarkable tolerance” among diverse communities across the cities of the Levant of that time. “Deals before Ideals, City before State, Trade before Politics,” as the reviewer puts it. This freedom of association was the source of strength. These autonomous ethnic communities were free of the top-down, punitive, forced integration that has become the hallmark of the 19th-century nation-state that usurped their authority."
Ileana Mercer

Something like this existed throughout the Ottoman Empire, except in Moldavia and Wallachia, where under the Capitulations (the treaty that no one can find a copy of) Muslims were not allowed to settle. Dalibor Denda, my Serbian historian friend, told me that Serbian (Christians) had some kind of autonomous life through the Patriarchate of Peć (Ipek) from 1557 to 1763 mostly thanks to Serbs who converted to Islam and took the highest positions within Ottoman administration.

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