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Collective Decision-Making and Foreign Interference in the Latin Community of Ottoman Istanbul

HISDEMAB seminar with Gabriel Doyle

In the Ottoman governance of religious plurality, no Latin Catholic millet was ever proclaimed despite thousands of inhabitants of this denomination living in Ottoman lands until the proclamation of the Turkish Republic. Roman Catholics, also called Levantines in the historiography, were supposed to be directly linked to foreign state authorities, namely the papacy, but also national governments in Paris, Vienna and Rome. Furthermore, within this religious denomination, the social, ethnic, linguistic and national diversity was so strong that it seemed even more difficult to establish a homogenous community with a clear authority than for other non-Muslim groups. These observations have often led historians to associate Latin Catholics to foreign protection and exclude them from the Ottoman pluralist system although many were in fact Ottoman subjects. This paper studies various projects led by Latin Catholics in Istanbul in which, on the contrary, an attempt to create a community with collective decision-making processes was taking place in the 19th century. Whether it is a charitable association, the administrative task of the Latin Chancellery or the attempt to create a millet after the 1908 revolution, the paper highlights various possibilities of creating a community based on collective decision-making. Moreover, various examples show that this population also carried with them a (distorted) memory of civic institutions from Genoa and other Italian city-states of the Middle Ages. Along the way, the political projects of local Latins, influenced by civic republicanism, Ottoman reforms and the 19th century surge in associations, were interrupted by the interference of representatives of the Vatican, of the Quai d’Orsay and European missionary congregations.

Gabriel Doyle works as a lecturer at SciencesPo. He holds a Masters in History from EHESS Paris (2015) and a double Bachelor in History and Political Science from Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (2013). He obtained his PhD in 2021 at EHESS Paris (under the supervision of Nathalie Clayer) with a thesis on the urban and spatial aspects of relief in late Ottoman Istanbul. Among his publication: “Le missionnaire aux 40 clés” (in Social Sciences and Missions, Brill, 2020).


Further Information

This event is part of the lecture series:
Lecture series in the academic year 2022/23
The Historicity of Democracy Seminar