The Ottoman Empire and the Emergence of its Irish Question: Online Talk with Dr. Murat Şiviloğlu

Yunus Emre Institute in London was delighted to present a new and fascinating online talk as part of the Arts & Culture Lecture series with Dr Murat Şiviloğlu on “The Ottoman Empire and the Emergence of its Irish Question” on Thursday 3rd March 2022 at 19:00. 

The Ottoman Empire and Ireland seem an unlikely pair in every respect. In the secondary literature, the paths of the two countries never converge. Except for Sultan Abdülmecid’s famous aid during the Famine, there has been virtually no discussion of the relationship between the two countries. 

By using the accounts of Ottoman authors and through a careful reading of archival materials from different eras, in this talk Şiviloğlu analysed the Ottoman perceptions of Ireland from the early modern era to the twentieth century. These documents and testimonies suggest that there was considerable interest in Ireland among Ottoman intellectuals and statesmen. They saw the country as an anomaly which could be possibly useful in their dealings with Britain. For that reason, they diligently followed the developments taking place in Ireland. 

The talk first focussed on the importance of Ottoman archival materials for the purposes of comparative history. Dr Şiviloğlu then discussed the vibrant interest of the Ottoman Empire in the outside world in general and in Ireland in particular, touching on fascinating example including the works of famous 17th-century Ottoman historian, geographer, and bibliographic, Katip Çelebi. Covering a large period of Irish-Ottoman history, the speaker continued to detail the development of diplomatic relations between the two states and pressed its steep evolution during and after the reign of Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II, reigning from 1808 until his death in 1839.   

Dr Şiviloğlu also systematically explored the well-known generous aid Sultan Abdülmecid sent during the Great Famine in Ireland of the 1840s which amounted to £1,000 in famine relief (no small sum for its time) as well as ships of supplies sent to the island. By placing it in its correct historical context and analysing it from a diplomatic and political perspective, he challenged Orientalising narratives that are usually pushed when discussing this singular event. Ending his event in the post-Ottoman period, Dr Şiviloğlu made sure to also touch on the relationship between Ireland and the new Turkish Republic following the Ottoman Empire’s collapse.  

The event ended with a lively Q&A session from the audience, watching through Zoom, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. 

Dr Murat Şiviloğlu is currently an Assistant Professor in Yunus Emre Institute Lectureship in Turkish Cultural History at the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, Trinity College Dublin. He holds a PhD degree in History from the University of Cambridge. His dissertation, completed under the supervision of Professor Sir Christ Bayly, was published by Cambridge University Press as a monograph entitled Emergence of Public Opinion: State and Society in the Late Ottoman Empire. 

His research focuses on the social and intellectual history of the Ottoman Empire during the nineteenth century. He is currently working on a new book project, Murder in the Harem: Life, Trial and Death of Emine Hanim, which is going to be published by Indiana University Press in 2023. 

This event was also streamed live on the Yunus Emre Institute in London Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts, @yeelondra. 

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