Natural Disasters in the Ottoman Empire: Plague, Famine, and Other Misfortunes

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Yaron, Ayalon, Ph.D. 2009.

This book explores the history of natural disasters in the Ottoman Empire and the responses to them on the state, communal, and individual levels. Yaron Ayalon argues that religious boundaries between Muslims and non-Muslims were far less significant in Ottoman society than commonly believed. Furthermore, the emphasis on Islamic principles and the presence of Islamic symbols in the public domain were measures the state took to enhance its reputation and political capitaloccasional discrimination of non-Muslims was only a by-product of these measures. This study sheds new light on flight and behavioral patterns in response to impending disasters by combining historical evidence with studies in social psychology and sociology. Employing an approach that mixes environmental and social history with the psychology of disasters, this work asserts that the handling of such disasters was crucial to both the rise and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

  • Explores the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire through looking at natural disasters
  • Transforms what we thought we knew about religious divisions in the Ottoman Empire
  • An interdisciplinary study, combining historical evidence with works in social psychology, sociology, and even neuroscience

·Table of Contents

1. The black death and the rise of the Ottomans
2. Natural disasters and the Ottoman state
3. Natural disasters and Ottoman communities
4. Individuals face disasters
5. Natural disasters at the end of empire


'Within this recently ascendant literature, the originality of Yaron Ayalon’s book is that it takes natural disasters as a whole and reads the entire Ottoman history through their perspective. With that ambitious goal it explores the many ways by which the Ottomans came to face disasters such as plague, famine, fire, and earthquake over a period of approximately six centuries.' Barış Taşyakan, Journal of Ottoman Studies

Cambridge University Press
New York
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