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Joshua White “Catch and Release: Piracy, Slavery, and Law in the Early Modern Ottoman Mediterranean”

November 22, 2011 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm  |  Stevenson Fireside Lounge


The Department of History presents: Muslim Mediterranean/Middle Eastern World Search Job Talk.

Beginning in the 1570s, incidents of piracy in the Eastern Mediterranean increased exponentially, as the conclusion of the war for Cyprus with Venice and the withdrawal of the imperial navies left behind numerous underemployed and unsupervised Ottoman naval irregulars and opened the door to all manner of pirates from further afield, both Christian and Muslim. The seventeenth century has often been referred to as the “golden age of piracy,” but one aspect of the spectacular rise in maritime violence in this period that has not received adequate attention is the Ottoman administrative and legal response to illegal slave-raiding in its waters. Unscrupulous Ottoman pirates frequently snatched Ottoman subjects and the subjects of the Ottomans’ treaty-partners from ships and shores in contravention of Islamic and sultanic law. The Ottoman government routinely ordered these captives found and freed and was sometimes willing to go to great lengths to ensure that they were released and sent home. In this talk, I shift the spotlight away from the pirates and onto the administrators, jurists, and victims—those who had to contend most with the consequences of maritime violence.

Joshua Michael White studies the social, legal, and diplomatic history of the early modern Ottoman Empire and the Mediterranean. A doctoral candidate in History at the University of Michigan, he earned an M.A in History from the same institution in 2007, a certificate in Arabic from the CASA program at the American University in Cairo in 2005, and a B.A. in History and Islamic Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. His dissertation examines the impact of piracy and amphibious slave-raiding in the early modern Mediterranean from the Ottoman perspective, arguing that increasing maritime violence in the Mediterranean after the 1570s had a tremendous effect on the formation of international law, the conduct of diplomacy, the articulation of Ottoman imperial and Islamic law, and their application in local Ottoman courts. He has conducted dissertation research in Istanbul, Venice, London, and Crete with the support of fellowships and grants from the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, Fulbright-Hays, the American Research Institute in Turkey, and the University of Michigan. His writing is presently supported by a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship. He is also the organizer and instructor for the ongoing U-M Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies’ Fall Colloquium Series, “Pirates of the Mediterranean.” 


November 22, 2011
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm


Stevenson Fireside Lounge
Humanites 1 University of California, Santa Cruz Cowell College
Santa Cruz, CA 95064 United States
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