Research Center for International Relations

Research Center for International Relations

December 5, 2012

Dr. Gülay Yılmaz Diko

A NEW TYPE OF SOLDIER: JANISSARIES IN THE URBAN LIFE OF EARLY MODERN OTTOMAN CITIES

Abstract

The paper concentrates on the janissaries living in Istanbul during the 17th century. This century signifies the transformation from middle age armies that were composed of professional soldiers to the early modern peasant-based larger armies in the world history. This transformation reflects itself in the Ottoman army mainly through the rapid expansion of the janissary army by the conscription of Muslim peasantry in addition to the levied Christian children that became janissaries. With the new type of soldiers included into the rapidly expanded janissary army the janissaries spread to various cities and began settling in them, most important of all being the capital, Istanbul.

During the 17th century the janissary existence in Istanbul was felt in various ways. These men began to settle down the city neighbourhoods which affected the urban socio-topography of the capital. They also became important economic actors within the city. The janissaries were economically heterogenous groups, composed of workers, artisans, merchants, or moneylenders. Their entrance into urban economy through achieving guild administrative ranks or establishing cash waqfs transformed janissaries into a new urban social group that was also actively involved in politics and emerged as important figures of popular protests that were organized against the state. This characteristic evolved throughout the centuries and as we reached the 19th century janissaries became one of the most significant urban actors who were balancing the power of the sultan in Istanbul which resulted in the abolition of the army by Mahmud II.

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Research Center for International Relations