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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 July 2011


This paper analyzes the large network of Ottoman vocational orphanages (ıslahhanes) opened from the 1860s onward in the provincial centers of the Ottoman Empire as a new educational and disciplinary institution for orphan, destitute, and poor children. I argue that ıslahhanes embodied new conceptualizations of order/disorder, obedience/disobedience, security/danger, and progress/decline in the urban space. In opening these institutions, Ottoman reformers aimed at the beautification and sterilization of urban centers by removing unattended children and youth from the streets and at the rejuvenation of economic activity by turning idle and wandering children into skilled and productive laborers. The establishment of orphanages was not only considered a means to solve a public-order problem but was also represented as a means of reintegration, of reshaping civic responsibility in children who had either lost or never embraced it. Islahhanes were also significant in the more abstract context of “Ottoman reform” and centralization and in the dissemination of Ottomanist ideals. On an imperial level, they were instrumental in linking the center with the provinces and local communities with Ottoman identity.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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Author's note: I am grateful to Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin for supporting my research during the 2009 to 2010 academic year as part of their postdoctoral fellowship program, “Europe in the Middle East—The Middle East in Europe (EUME).” I am also indebted to Iris Agmon, Ulrike Freitag, Nora Lafi, Beth Baron, Anny Bakalian, Kathryn R. Libal, and my fellow EUMEs for their invaluable feedback, comments, and criticisms.

1 Davison, Roderic, Reform in the Ottoman Empire: 1856–1876 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1963), 406Google Scholar.

2 Reinkowski, Maurus, “The State's Security & the Subjects’ Prosperity: Notions of Order in Ottoman Bureaucratic Correspondence (19th Century),” in Legitimizing the Order: The Ottoman Rhetoric of State Power, ed. Karateke, Hakan T. and Reinkowski, Maurus (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2005), 195212Google Scholar.

3 Ergin, Osman Nuri, Türkiye Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3 (Istanbul: Eser Kültür Yayınları, 1977)Google Scholar; Kornrumpf, Hans Jurgen, “Islahhaneler,” in Colloques internationaux du CNRS, no. 601—Économie et Sociétés dans l'Empire Ottoman (fin du XVIIIe-début du XXe siècle) (CNRS: Paris, 1983), 149–56Google Scholar. Modern-day Ottoman Turkish dictionaries define the term in a similar way. In the modern Turkish language, “correction house” is ıslahevi (the Ottoman suffix -hane was replaced with a modern one, -evi), and it seems that the modern definition was transferred to older usage.

4 Prime Ministry's Ottoman Archives (hereafter BOA), İrade, Dahiliye (hereafter İ.DH), 03.C.1290 (29 July1873).

5 “Vilayat Islahhaneleri Nizamnamesi,” in Düstûr, tertib 1, vol. 2 (Istanbul: Matbaa-i Âmire, 1289/1872), 277–95, article 3.

6 Paşa, Midhat, Midhat Paşa'nın Hatıraları: Hayatım İbret Olsun [Tabsıra-i İbret], ed. Kocahanoğlu, Osman Selim (Istanbul: Temel Yayınları, 1997), 3435Google Scholar. Under Abdülhamit II, ıslahhanes began to be called “Hamidiye Sanayi Mekteb-i Alisi,” since the institution's link with Midhat Paşa was seen as problematic. Yet in many official documents from the era, the term appears to be in use. For example, although referred to as Izmir Industrial School in the 1880s and Hamidiye Industrial School after 1891, the institution in Izmir was still called ıslahhane as late as 1908, on the fortieth anniversary of the institution. BOA, Zabtiye Nezareti (hereafter ZB), 404/38, 9.Ms.1324 (22 May 1908). İhsan Şerif, in a 1915 article that appeared in an important educational magazine of the time, Tedrisat Mecmuası (Journal of Teaching), discusses Midhat Paşa's educational reforms in the Danube. He explains that ıslahhane as a term simply meant orphanage: “. . . birer ‘darüleytam’ demek olan ıslahhaneler . . .” Şerif, İhsan, “Midhat Paşa, Sanayi Mektepleri,” Tedrisat Mecmuası: Nazariyat ve Malumat Kısmı 5 (1915): 6568Google Scholar.

7 Davin, Anna, Growing Up Poor: Home, School, and Street in London (London: Rivers Oram Press, 1996)Google Scholar; Murdoch, Lydia, Imagined Orphans: Poor Families, Child Welfare, and Contested Citizenship in London (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2006), 1242Google Scholar.

8 It is estimated that in the aftermath of the Crimean War, 300,000 to 500,000 Circassians and Tatars were settled in the Balkan provinces, and destitute and vagrant children became a presence in Danubian cities. For more information, see Sarah A. S. Isla Rosser, “The First ‘Circassian Exodus’ to the Ottoman Empire (1858–1867), and the Ottoman Response, Based on the Accounts of Contemporary British Observers” (master's thesis, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 2007).

9 BOA, İrade, Meclis-i Vala (hereafter İ.MVL), 584/26270, 26.L.1284 (20 February 1868). Midhat Paşa recounts in his memoirs that Circassian and Tatar refugee children were a big problem at that time. Midhat Paşa, Tabsıra-i İbret, 53.

10 BOA, Dahiliye Nezareti Mektubi Kalemi (hereafter DH.MKT), 2413/113, 16.C.1318 (11 October 1900).

11 BOA, Bab-ı Ali Evrak Odası Sadaret Evrakı Mektubi Mühimme Kalemi (hereafter A.MKT.MHM), 300/9, 5.Z.1280 (11 May 1864).

12 BOA, Yıldız Mütenevvi Maruzat (hereafter Y.MTV), 3/94, 05.C.1297 (14 May 1880).

13 BOA, İ.MVL, 584/26270, 26.L.1284 (20 February 1868).

14 BOA, Maarif Nezareti, Mektubi Kalemi (hereafter MF.MKT), 53/103, 17.S.1295 (20 February 1878); BOA, MF.MKT, 54/39, 14.Ra.1295 (18 March 1878).

15 BOA, Yıldız Esas Evrak (Y.EE), 44/138, 10.R.1298 (10 February 1881).

17 BOA, Yıldız Başkitabet Dairesi Maruzatı (Y.PRK.BŞK), 5/38, 16.M.1299 (8 December 1881); BOA, İ.DH, 841/67590, 21.M.1299 (13 December 1881).

18 BOA, Yıldız Sadaret Hususi Maruzat Evrakı (hereafter Y.A.HUS), 169/30, 28.M.1299 (20 December 1881).

19 Persons in difficult material circumstances were allowed to earn a living on the basis of begging under state control. Beggars were able to formally sustain their begging activities under an official supervisor as though they were a professional group organized in a guild system. Düzbakar, Ömer, “The Treatment of Beggars in the Ottoman Empire: The Case of Bursa,” Journal of International Social Research 1 (2008): 290312Google Scholar.

20 Criminalization occurred with the passage of the “Law on Vagabonds and Suspected Persons.” See “Serseri ve Mazannae-i Su-i Eşhas Hakkında Kanun, 9/R/1327 [10 May 1909],” Düstûr, tertib 2, vol. 1 (1908–1909) (Istanbul: Matbaa-i Osmaniye, 1329 [1911]), 169–72. Before that, the Regulation on Vagabonds and Suspected Persons (1890) was the main document defining this aspect of the public order in the Ottoman Empire. Another important regulation was the one prohibiting begging. See “Tese'ülün men'ine dair nizamname, 13/Ş/1313 [29 January 1896],” Düstûr, tertib 1, vol. 7 (1895–1904) (Ankara: Başvekalet Devlet Matbaası, 1941), 48–49.

21 Betül Başaran argues that following the 1730 and 1740 revolts in Istanbul, immigrants became increasingly associated with public disorder, uprising, and crime and the authorities perceived them as a collectively disruptive element in society. According to a broad concept of vagrancy, people who were not anchored to neighborhood communities by virtue of marriage, religion, and work-based ties created concern on the part of the authorities. The Ottoman government thus attempted to limit migration and undertook complicated efforts at policing the inhabitants of neighborhoods, especially in Istanbul. Betül Başaran, “Remaking the Gate of Felicity: Policing, Social Control, and Migration in Istanbul at the End of the Eighteenth Century, 1789–1793” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2006).

22 BOA, DH.MKT, 1574/87, 11.R.1306 (15 December 1888).

23 Ergut, Ferdan, “Policing the Poor in the Late Ottoman Empire,” Middle Eastern Studies 38 (2002): 149–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mazower, Mark, Salonica: The City of Ghosts (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 230–31Google Scholar; Mitchell, Timothy, Colonising Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988)Google Scholar.

24 Some of these important reformers include Mustafa Reşit Paşa (1800–58), Mehmet Sadık Rıfat Paşa (1807–56), Mustafa Sami Bey (?–1855), and Midhat Paşa. For more information, see Mardin, Şerif, Türkiye'de Toplum ve Siyaset (Istanbul: İletişim, 1990), 297304Google Scholar; and Berkes, Niyazi, The Development of Secularism in Turkey (London: Hurst & Co., 1998), 128–32Google Scholar.

25 BOA, İrade, Hususi (hereafter İ.HUS), 87/1318-Z-58, 29.Z.1318 (19 April 1901); BOA, A.MKT.MHM, 707/23, 02.M.1319 (21 April 1901); BOA, İ.HUS, 88/1318-M-29, 09.M.1319 (28 April 1901); BOA, Y.A.HUS, 415/35, 12.M.1319 (1 May 1901); BOA, ZB, 375/52, 09.Ke.1322 (22 December 1906).

26 For more information on the reorganization of the police force in the new scheme for provincial administration, see the excellent study by Milen V. Petrov, “Tanzimat for the Countryside: Midhat Pasa and the Vilayet of Danube, 1864–1868” (PhD diss., Princeton University, 2006).

27 BOA, İrade Şura-yı Devlet (hereafter İ.ŞD), 13/610, 15.Z.1285 (29 March 1869).

28 Tuna/Dunav, vol. 1, no. 21, 21 July/2 August 1865; vol. 1, no. 42, 15/27 December 1865.

29 Tuna/Dunav, vol. 2, no. 135, 18/30 December 1866.

30 BOA, Yıldız Perakende Komisyonlar Maruzat Evrakı (Y. PRK.KOM), 4/29, 29.Z.1300 (31 October 1883).

31 Regulation of prostitution began in this period in Istanbul, especially in Péra and Galata, as part of a concern over both venereal diseases and the trafficking of women and girls, which was becoming an international issue at the end of the 19th century. Özbek, Müge, “The Regulation of Prostitution in Beyoğlu (1875–1915),” Middle Eastern Studies 46 (2010): 555–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

32 Nazan Maksudyan, “Rejuvenating and Financing the Urban Economy in the Late Ottoman Empire: Establishment of the Authority for the Direction of Orphans’ Property (1851),” 12th Mediterranean Social and Political Research Meeting, European University Institute, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, Florence, 6–10 April 2011.

33 Donald Quataert argues that Sultan Mahmud II's destruction of the janissaries in 1826 was a terrible blow for the guilds. At the moment when international competition was intensifying in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, guilds were bereft of protectors and their restrictive practices kept costs too high. Quataert, Donald, The Ottoman Empire, 1700–1922 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 137Google Scholar.

34 Namık Kemal, Hürriyet, no. 7, 21 Rebiülahir 1285 (11 August 1868). The author refers especially to the signing of Baltalimanı Treaty in 1838 with the British, regulating international trade.

35 BOA, Dahiliye Nezareti Teşrî-i Muamelat ve Islahat Komisyonu (DH.TMIK.S), 39/19, 18.R.1320 (24 July 1902).

36 Takvim-i Vekayi, 09.Ş.1285 (25 December 1868).

37 Sarc, Ömer Celal, “Tanzimat ve Sanayiimiz,” in Tanzimat: Yüzüncü Yıldönümü Münasebetiyle (Istanbul: Maarif Matbaası, 1940), 423–40Google Scholar.

38 BOA, İ.DH, 583/40618, 04.Ş.1285 (19 November 1868).

39 Giz, Adnan, “1868’de İstanbul Sanayicilerinin Şirketler Halinde Birleştirilmesi Teşebbüsü,” İstanbul Sanayi Odası Dergisi 34 (1968): 1619Google Scholar; Midhat Paşa, Tabsıra-i İbret, 81.

40 BOA, A.MKT.MHM, 302/67, 01.M.1281 (6 June 1864).

41 BOA, İ.MVL, 502/22735, 21.N.1280 (29 February 1864).

42 BOA, Y.MTV, 38/46, 13.S.1306 (19 October 1888).

43 BOA, DH.MKT, 2413/113, 16.C.1318 (11 October 1900); BOA, DH.MKT, 2346/12, 17.M.1318 (16 May 1900).

44 “Vilayat Islahhaneleri Nizamnamesi” (hereafter “Nizamname”), Düstûr, tertib 1, vol. 2 (Istanbul: Matbaa-i Âmire, 1289 [1872]), 277–95, articles 8–9.

45 BOA, İ.DH, 591/41114, 20.M.1286 (2 May 1869); “Nizamname,” article 10.

46 “Nizamname,” article 36.

47 BOA, MF.MKT,15/104, 25.L.1290 (16 December 1873).

48 BOA, MF.MKT, 26/133, 21.S.1292 (29 March 1875). In the end, İbrahim Efendi, who was “competent in shoemaking” (kunduracılıkta liyakatli), and Hıristo Efendi, “competent in tailoring” (terzilikte liyakatli), were sent to Izmir. BOA, MF.MKT, 31/21, 06.Ş.1292 (6 September 1875).

49 For example, while the Adana orphanage specialized in weaving, Kastamonu concentrated on carpentry and other forms of woodworking, and the ıslahhane of Diyarbekir produced aba, Persian shawls, and other traditional textile products. BOA, İ.DH, 591/41114, 20.M.1286 (2 May 1869).

50 BOA, İ.DH., 604/42096, 21.Ş.1286 (26 November 1869).

51 BOA, İ.ŞD, 13/610, 15.Z.1285 (29 March 1869).

52 Midhat Paşa, Tabsıra-i İbret, 81.

53 BOA, İ.DH, 591/41114, 20.M.1286 (2 May 1869).

54 Talip Atalay, “19. Yüzyılda Sokak Çocuklarını Topluma Kazandırmada Başarılı Bir Örnek: Diyarbekir Vilayeti Islahhanesi,” Osmanlı’dan Cumhuriyet'e II. Uluslararası Diyarbakır Sempozyumu, 15–17 November 2006.

55 Eren, İsmail, “Kosova Sanayi Mektebi,” Belgelerle Türk Tarihi Dergisi 3 (March 1969): 3438Google Scholar.

56 Talay, Aydın, Eserleri ve Hizmetleriyle Sultan Abdülhamid (Istanbul: Risale, 1991), 117, 139–40Google Scholar.

57 BOA, İ.ŞD, 13/610, 15.Z.1285 (29 March 1869).

58 Midhat Paşa, Tabsıra-i İbret, 52–53.

59 Sakaoğlu, Necdet, Osmanlı’dan Günümüze Eğitim Tarihi (Istanbul: Bilgi Üniversitesi Yayınları, 2003), 79Google Scholar; Salname 1295 (Dersaadet: Rıza Efendi Matbaası, 1878), 256.

60 “Nizamname,” article 52.

61 Salname-yi Vilayet-i Aydın (Izmir: Vilayet Matbaası, 1319 [1901]), 88–89.

62 İbnü’ş-Şeyh Nafî, Mahmud Cevad, Maarif-i Umûmiye Nezareti Tarihçe-i Teşkilat ve İcraatı: XIX. Asır Osmanlı Maarif Tarihi (Ankara: Yeni Türkiye Yayınları, 2001)Google Scholar.

63 The first School of Forestry followed the first School of Agriculture in 1857. A three-year middle school for court clerks and scribes was opened in 1862–63 along with the first school for translators of modern languages. For training foremen and technicians, a School of Mining was opened in 1874. Sakaoğlu, Osmanlı’dan Günümüze Eğitim Tarihi.

64 BOA, İ.ŞD, 13/610, 15.Z.1285 (29 March 1869).

65 Berkes, The Development of Secularism, 189.

66 “Maarif-i Umûmiyye Nizamnamesi,” Düstûr, tertib 1, vol. 2 (Istanbul: Matbaa-i Âmire, 1289 [1872]), 184–219.

67 Koç, Bekir, “Osmanlı Islahhanelerinin İşlevlerine İlişkin Bazı Görüşler,” Gaziantep Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi 6, no. 2 (2007): 113–27Google Scholar.

68 BOA, A.MKT.MHM, 302/67, 01.M.1281 (6 June 1864).

69 BOA, MF.MKT, 44/42, 15.L.1293 (3 November 1876).

70 Salname-yi Vilayet-i Aydın, 88.

71 BOA, MF.MKT, 24/94, 29.Z.1291 (6 February 1875).

72 BOA, İ.DH, 604/42096, 21.Ş.1286 (26 November 1869).

73 BOA, A.MKT.MHM, 329/9, 14.Za.1281 (10 April 1865).

74 BOA, A.MKT.MHM, 302/67, 1.M.1281 (6 June 1864).

75 BOA, İ.DH, 591/41114, 20.M.1286 (2 May 1869).

76 BOA, Cevdet Maarif (C.MF), 131/6542, 3.N.1289 (4 November 1872).

77 For example, in 1901, there were 257 Muslims in contrast to 17 Greeks, 1 Armenian, and 1 Jew. Salname-yi Vilayet-i Aydın (Izmir: Vilayet Matbaası, 1318 [1900]), 490.

78 Midhat Paşa, Tabsıra-i İbret, 233.

79 BOA, İ.ŞD, 13/610, 15.Z.1285 (29 March 1869).

81 As Timothy Mitchell argues with reference to Foucault, the newly developing forms of “government,” though not exactly establishing the institutions of the modern state, developed the methods of enumerating, regulating, and managing a population, out of which the modern state and modern social sciences were gradually formed. Mitchell, Timothy, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2002), 15Google Scholar.

82 Instead of conceptualizing governmental institutions as abstract reifications, it is necessary to think of them as the political practices of real historical agents, such as governors, municipal heads, and local elites. For a detailed historiographical summary of studies on the Ottoman provinces and the idea of “colonizing the provinces,” see Özbek, Nadir, “Policing the Countryside: Gendarmes of the Late Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Empire (1876–1908),” International Journal of Middle East Studies 40 (2008): 4767CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

83 This was stated very clearly in the proposal for the creation of the province, which proclaimed that “the useful lessons learned through experience would be then applied to other places [in the empire] in very short order.” BOA, İrade, Meclis-i Mahsus (İ.MMS), 29/1245, 11.Ca.1281 (12 October 1864).

84 See Petrov, “Tanzimat for the Countryside.”

85 “Islahhanelere Dair Nizamname,” in Vilayetlerin İdare-i Mahsûsa ve Nizamatının Suver-i İcraiyesi Hakkında Talimat (Istanbul: n.p., 1284 [1867]), 193–96.

86 Around the same time, a more detailed regulation was prepared for the reform houses of the empire, though the Danubian example was still underlined as the model. “Vilayat Islahhaneleri Nizamnamesi,” in Düstûr, tertib 1, vol. 2 (Istanbul, Matbaa-i Âmire, 1289 [1872]), 277–95.

87 The expansion of public schools such as idadis in the provinces constituted a major challenge, which was not successfully handled until after the demise of the empire. See Akşin Somel, S., The Modernization of Public Education in the Ottoman Empire, 1839–1908: Islamization, Autocracy, and Discipline (Leiden & Boston: E. J. Brill, 2001), 272Google Scholar.

88 For example, a complete set of uniforms was sent from Istanbul to Trabzon to be used as a sample for the orphange there. BOA, MF.MKT, 440/22, 16.Z.1285 (30 March 1869).

89 Books, booklets (risale), and tracts (cüz) were sent from Istanbul to various places such as Erzurum, Janina, Ruse, İzmir, and Ankara. BOA, MF.MKT, 27/78, 09.Ra.1292 (15 April 1875); 33/82, 25.Z.1292 (22 January 1876); 25/98, 11.M.1292 (17 February 1875); 36/32, 12.R.1293 (6 May 1876).

90 Students were sent to Salonika and Izmir. BOA, MF.MKT,15/104, 25.L.1290 (16 December 1873); BOA, MF.MKT, 26/133, 21.S.1292 (29 March 1875).

91 BOA, MF.MKT, 12/109, 17.Ca.1290 (13 July 1873).

92 BOA, MF.MKT, 12/59, 17.Ca.1290 (13 July 1873).

93 BOA, MF.MKT, 12/109, 26.Ca.1290 (22 July 1873).

94 BOA, MF.MKT, 15/62, 18.L.1290 (9 December 1873).

95 BOA, MF.MKT, 26/133, 21.S.1292 (29 March 1875).

96 BOA, MF.MKT, 596/22, 20.N.1319 (31 December 1901).

97 There is evidence that even if the former employees applied to the ministries of the interior or education, they were referred back to the governorship, since their salaries were supposed to be paid by local authorities (mahallince). BOA, DH.MKT, 586/63, 28.C.1320 (1 October 1902). Accumulated daily wages (yevmiye) of the children were also supposed to be paid from the treasury of the relevant province.

98 Eyüpgiller, Kemal Kutgün, “Kastamonu Kent Tarihi,” Electronic Journal of Oriental Studies 1 (1998): 1149Google Scholar, esp. 106.

99 BOA, A.MKT.MHM, 302/67, 01.M.1281 (6 June 1864); BOA, İ.ŞD, 8/142, 2.R.1285 (22 July 1868); BOA, İ.ŞD, 13/610, 15.Z.1285 (29 March 1869); BOA., İ.DH., 591/41114, 20.M.1286 (2 May 1869); BOA, DH.MKT, 1376/85, 9.S.1304 (7 November 1886); BOA, İ.ŞD, 14/629, 16.M.1286 (28 April 1869).

100 For example, philanthropists (eshab-ı hamiyyet) in Diyarbekir undertook the construction of a shop complex next to the governor's residence and to the newly built public offices outside the walled city. The rents they generated were allocated to the budget of the orphanage. BOA, İ.DH, 591/41114, 20.M.1286 (2 May 1869).

101 Zevra, no. 128, 28 Zilhicce 1287 (20 March 1871), 255. Midhat Paşa, Tabsıra-i İbret, 113. The construction expenses of the Harput orphanage, opened in 1873, were also met with the benevolent contributions of the locals, BOA, A.MKT.MHM, 446/17, 26.Za.1289 (25 January 1873).

102 For example, to generate income for the orphanage in Adana, real estate was constructed, both with benevolent contributions (iane) and extraordinary tax revenues (avarız varidatı). BOA, MF.MKT, 550/9, 16.Z.1318 (6 April 1901).

103 BOA, İ.ŞD, 8/142, 2.R.1285 (22 July 1868). In order to reward her generosity, the Education Department of the Council of State (Şura-yı Devlet Maarif Dairesi) honored her with an atiyye-i seniyye (gift from the sultan), a bracelet worth 20,000 kuruş.

104 BOA, DH.MKT, 2026/13, 09.Ca.1310 (29 November 1892).

105 Eyüpgiller, “Kastamonu,” 106.

106 Salname-yi Vilayet-i Aydın (Izmir: Vilayet Matbaası, 1312 [1895]), 151; Martal, Abdullah, Değişim Sürecinde İzmir'de Sanayileşme, 19. Yüzyıl (Izmir: Dokuz Eylül Yayınları, 1999), 41Google Scholar.

107 BOA, İ.DH, 1312/1311-Za-19, 15.Za.1311 (21 May 1894). The buildings were quite spacious and large.

108 Salname-yi Vilayet-i Aydın (Izmir: Vilayet Matbaası, 1311 [1894]), 139–40.

109 “Islahhanelere Dair Nizamname,” 193–96.

110 This was the case in Baghdad, for example.

111 BOA, İ.ŞD, 2433/27, 11.Ş.1297 (19 July 1880); BOA, DH.MKT, 397/20, 21.M.1313 (14 July 1895).

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