Negotiating Empires: “British” dragomans and changing identity in the 19th century Levant

Judith Laffan (2011). Negotiating Empires: “British” dragomans and changing identity in the 19th century Levant PhD Thesis, School of History, Religion, Philosophy, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Judith Laffan
Thesis Title Negotiating Empires: “British” dragomans and changing identity in the 19th century Levant
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Religion, Philosophy, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-01
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Assoc Prof. Marion Diamond
Prof. Robert Elson
Total pages 260
Total colour pages 4
Total black and white pages 256
Subjects 21 History and Archaeology
Abstract/Summary This thesis examines changes in Ottoman national identity in the nineteenth century through the experiences of locally hired dragomans (translators) who worked for both British and American employers. Dragomans mediated between various groups in their work. Beyond carrying out consular activities they communicated new concepts to their local communities. With this in mind, this study concentrates on the experiences of two indigenous intermediaries, in particular a father and son working in and around Beirut, to compare how their association with the British and Americans at different ends of the century affected their position in Ottoman society. In so doing, a complex relationship of obligations and indebtedness is revealed that formed the basis of their connections with foreign residents. A significant factor in the formation of such patronage networks was prestige. Such prestige was measured in terms of power, wealth, and knowledge; the more a person had, the greater one’s ability to provide services to one’s clients. Gradually, however, over the course of the nineteenth century the basis upon which prestige and its related networks rested altered. At the beginning of the century, prestige had determined how far one’s networks stretched up and down a vertically-structured state (official) hierarchy. Towards the middle of the century, however, Ottoman reformers introduced the concept of equality along with centralizing measures, while the British were also centralising their imperial structures in an attempt to more effectively rule their vast empire. Both of these factors influenced the prestige and thus the position of dragomans within Ottoman society and the British “nation” resident in the sultan’s empire. Hence this thesis shows that events at the imperial peripheries influenced central policies and it grants us alternative visions of how issues of identity were framed for some Ottoman-born dragomans. As such it problematises the limited view of late Ottoman history that has arisen from a retrospective analysis framed all too often in terms dictated by the Empire’s successor states.
Keyword Ottoman Empire 19th century
Great Britain
International relations
Dragomans interpreters
Consular jurisdiction
Privileges and immunities
Additional Notes Pages to be printed in colour as per pagination of thesis (not the PDF): 27; 31; 137; 253 p. 27: Map of Ottoman Empire 1675 and 1878 p. 31: Detail from “Plan of Beyrout” (1841) p. 137: Detail showing Yacoob Gate, from detail of “Plan of Beyrout” (1841) p. 253: Placard, 27 June 1880, Beirut

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Created: Sat, 02 Jul 2011, 07:44:02 EST by Ms Judith Laffan on behalf of Library - Information Access Service