Born on the Golden Horn and raised in the Sultan’s palace in Istanbul, Çelebi traveled throughout Ottoman domains between 1640 and 1680. He published an account of his travels and experiences as the Seyahatname, or Book of Travels. In the first of his ten books in the document, Çelebi provides a lengthy description of Istanbul around the year 1638, including a panoramic view of 1,100 artisan and craft guilds. The numbers and diversity of trades represented underscore the extent of Ottoman commerce—as well as the pride of place each of the city’s working people claimed as their due.
Robert Dankoff, An Ottoman Mentality: The World of Evliya Çelebi, 2nd ed. (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2006), 86–89.
The Janissaries constitute the most famous and centralized of the Ottomans’ military institutions. A feared and respected military force, the Janissaries were Christian-born males who had been seized from their homes as boys, converted to Islam, and then trained as future soldiers and administrators for the Turks. Under the direct orders of the sultan and his viziers, the Janissaries were equipped with the latest military innovations. In the early fifteenth century, these units received cannons and matchlock muskets. The muskets continued their evolution in the Janissaries’ hands, becoming the standard equipment for Ottoman and other armies.
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Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq
Ghiselin (1522–1592) was a Flemish ambassador who represented the Austrian Habsburgs at the court of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520–1566) in Istanbul. In 1581, he published an account of his time among the Ottomans as Itinera Constantinopolitanum et Amasianum (Travels in Constantinople and Asia Minor). In this segment of his travel narrative, he draws attention to the personal habits and behaviors of a contemporary emperor—one who saw himself as the heir to the Romans as well as to the other monarchs who had held Constantinople/Istanbul.
Wayne S. Vucinich, The Ottoman Empire: Its Record and Legacy (Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand, 1965), 127–129.
Peter the Great, John Hosy, and Eugene Schuyler
Peter I (1672–1725) of Russia was one of the most extraordinary rulers of eighteenth-century Europe. He came to power in a country with a deeply established traditional culture that was changing rapidly in the face of increased contact and competition with western and northern European powers. Under Peter, Russia defeated Sweden to become the single greatest power in eastern Europe. He also instituted an entire range of social, economic, cultural, intellectual, and political changes. Peter developed a completely different political idea that was an amalgam of Russian doctrines about the personal, autocratic power of the tsar and western ideas about rational, secular rule in service of an abstract, impersonal state. In addition, Peter imported selected parts of western culture and learning, and he imposed them on an often resistant nobility. The most visible sign of Peter’s western orientation was the new capital of St. Petersburg that he ordered built.
The first source offered here is an imperial edict that invites foreigners to come to Russia and enter Russian government service. It also provides Peter’s overall goals. The second set of sources—the decree on building restrictions and the description of a ban on kneeling in the tsar’s presence in St. Petersburg—involve Peter’s use of “rational” legislation for the public good. Following this, the third set of documents present Peter’s view of the ruler’s role as first servant of the state and his understanding of the proper behavior of his subjects. The final set of texts present two Russian opinions of Peter.
“Decree on the Invitation to Foreigners” (1702), in Peter the Great, ed. L. Jay Oliva. (Prentice-Hall, 1970): 44. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ.
“Decrees on the Building of St. Petersburg” (1714), in Life and Thought in Old Russia, ed. Marthe Blinoff, 16–17. Copyright © 1961 Pennsylvania State University Press.
Account given by John Hosy, the emperor’s First Surgeon, in Original Anecdotes of Peter the Great, ed. Jakob von Staehlin (New York: Arno Press, 1920), 99–100.
Peter the Great, “Order to the Army Before the Battle of Poltava,” June 27, 1709, in A Source Book for Russian History from Early Times to 1917, Vol. 2, ed. George Vernadsky, et al., 365. Copyright © 1972 Yale University Press. Reprinted with permission.
In Eugene Schuyler, Peter the Great, Vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1884), 153–54.