Skip to main content

The Ottoman institution of petitioning when the sultan no longer reigned: a view from post-1908 Ottoman Palestine

  • Yuval Ben-Bassat (a1)

The Young Turk Revolution of 1908 helped transform the time-honored Ottoman petitioning system. The reinstatement of parliamentary life, the reintroduction of the suspended constitution of 1876, and the lifting of the ban on the press and political action all generated profound political and social changes. Subjects’ petitions reflected these changes vividly and in often surprising detail. As the sultan became a figurehead with little actual power, petitions which hitherto had been addressed to the sultan either directly or through the grand vizier and had requested his benevolence and mercy, while also granting him much needed legitimacy, now began to be sent instead to the Council of State (Şura-yı Devlet), the parliament, and various government ministries. Their content changed as well, as will be shown in this article through an analysis of dozens of petitions from Ottoman Palestine. Petitions now sought to obtain political rights and ensure civil equity and constitutional rights. In focusing on rights, the rule of law, and the deficiencies of the former system, the petitions echoed changes in popular discourse and mirrored the transformation from justice as a sultanic prerogative to constitutional and civil law.

Hide All
Primary Sources
Prime Ministry Ottoman Archives
( Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi , BOA, İstanbul)
BEO (Bâb-ı Âlî Evrak Odası)
DH.EUM.EMN (Dahiliye Nezareti Emniyet-i Umumiye Müdiriyeti Emniyet Şubesi)
DH.H (Dahiliye Nezareti Hukuk)
DH.MKT (Dahiliye Nezareti Mektubi Kalemi)
DH.MUI (Dahiliye Nezareti Muhaberat-ı Umumiye)
DH.ŞFR. (Dahiliye Nezareti Şifre Kalemi)
HR.TO (Hariciye Nezareti Tercüme Odası Evrakı)
I.MBH. (İrade Mabeyn-i Hümayun)
Agmon, Iris. “Recording Procedures and Legal Culture in the Late Ottoman Shariʽa Court of Jaffa, 1865–1890.” Islamic Law and Society 11, no. 3 (2004): 333377.
Akın, Yiğit. “War, Women, and the State: The Politics of Sacrifice in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.” Journal of Women’s History 26, no. 3 (2014): 1235.
Baldwin, James E. “Petitioning the Sultan in Ottoman Egypt.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 75, no. 3 (2012): 499524.
Ben-Bassat, Yuval. Petitioning the Sultan: Protests and Justice in Late Ottoman Palestine. London: I.B. Tauris, 2013.
Chalcraft, John. “Engaging the State: Peasants and Petitions in Egypt on the Eve of Colonial Rule.” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 37, no. 3 (2005): 303325.
Darling, Linda T. A History of Social Justice and Political Power in the Middle East: The Circle of Justice from Mesopotamia to Globalization. New York: Routledge, 2013.
Der-Matossian, Bedross. Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empire. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014.
Doumani, Beshara. Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700–1900. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
Faroqhi, Suraiya. “Political Initiatives ‘From the Bottom Up’ in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Ottoman Empire: Some Evidence for Their Existence.” In Coping with the State: Political Conflict and Crime in the Ottoman Empire, 1550–1720. Edited by Suraiya Faroqhi. İstanbul: Isis, 1995. 111.
Faroqhi, SuraiyaPolitical Activity among Ottoman Taxpayers and the Problem of Sultanic Legitimation (1570–1650).” In Coping with the State: Political Conflict and Crime in the Ottoman Empire, 1550–1720. Edited by Suraiya Faroqhi. İstanbul: Isis, 1995. 131141.
Fishman, Louis. “Understanding the 1911 Ottoman Parliament Debate on Zionism in Light of the Emergence of a ‘Jewish Question’.” In Late Ottoman Palestine: The Period of Young Turk Rule. Edited by Yuval Ben-Bassat, and Eyal Ginio. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011. 103123.
Gerber, Haim. Ottoman Rule in Jerusalem, 1890–1914. Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 1985.
Ginio, Eyal. “Coping with the State’s Agents ‘from below’: Petitions, Legal Appeal, and the Sultan’s Justice in Ottoman Legal Practice.” In Popular Protest and Political Participation in the Ottoman Empire: Studies in Honor of Suraiya Faroqhi. Edited by Eleni Gara, M. Erdem Kabadayı, and Christoph K. Neumann. İstanbul: İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi Yayınları, 2011. 4156.
Hämmerle, Christa. “Requests, Complaints, Demands: Preliminary Thoughts on the Petitioning Letters of Lower-Class Austrian Women, 1865–1918.” In Gender and Politics in the Age of Letter-Writing, 1750–2000 . Edited by Caroline Bland, and Máire Cross. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004. 115134.
Khalidi, Rashid. Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.
Landen, R.G. The Emergence of the Modern Middle East. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1970.
Minkov, Anton. Conversions to Islam in the Balkans: Kisve Bahası Petitions and Ottoman Social Life, 1670–1730. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2004.
Ӧzok-Gündoğan, Nilay. “A ‘Peripheral’ Approach to the 1908 Revolution in the Ottoman Empire: Land Disputes in Peasant Petitions in Post-Revolution Dıyarbekir.” In Social Relations in Ottoman Diyarbekir, 1870–1915 . Edited by Joost Jongerden, and Jelle Verheij. Leiden: Brill, 2012. 179216.
Rubin, Avi. “Legal Borrowing and its Impact on Ottoman Legal Culture in the Late Nineteenth Century.” Continuity and Change 22, no. 2 (2007): 279303.
Ursinus, Michael. Grievance Administration (Şikâyet) in an Ottoman Province: The Kaymakam of Rumelia’s ‘Record Book of Complaints’ of 1781–1783. London and New York: Routledge, 2005.
Zachs, Fruma and Ben-Bassat, Yuval. “Visibility of Women in Petitions during the Late Ottoman Period.” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 47, no. 4 (2015): 765781.
Zarinebaf-Shahr, Fariba. “Women, Law, and Imperial Justice in Ottoman İstanbul in the Late Seventeenth Century.” In Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History. Edited by Amira El-Azhary Sonbol. Syracuse and New York: Syracuse University Press, 1996. 8196.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

New Perspectives on Turkey
  • ISSN: 0896-6346
  • EISSN: 1305-3299
  • URL: /core/journals/new-perspectives-on-turkey
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 10
Total number of PDF views: 54 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 219 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 21st April 2017 - 19th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.