Ottoman Timariot Cavalry in its Seventeenth-Century Twilight: A Resilient or “Zombie” Institution?

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Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Thursday, February 15, 20185:00PM - 7:00PM2098 Sidney Smith Hall
Natalie Zemon Davis Room
100 St. George Street
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Seminar in Ottoman & Turkish Studies


It has long been received wisdom that the Ottoman institution of the timar (“fief/benefice/prebend”)—which gave a virtual caste of cavalry and other servants of the state the right to tax peasant agriculture in exchange for military or other service—was a linchpin of that state’s organization. Moreover, the timar is widely considered as crucial for the successful workings of the empire during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as, for example, the kapıkulı (“slave of the Porte”) military-administrative institution. The argument continues that the timar institution essentially became defunct by the seventeenth century, thanks to the adoption of viable gunpowder weaponry, inflationary pressures in Ottoman currency, and corruption. This seminar will offer a fresh look at these commonplaces in light of the problem of the survival of mountains of documents and defters—today mostly unseen or ignored—that suggest an institution that did not lose its vigour in the post-classical age and will consider the question, “Who are the ‘zombies,’ Ottoman timariots or Ottomanist historians?”


Victor Ostapchuk
University of Toronto


Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations

Department of History

Centre for Euopean, Russian, and Eurasian Studies

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