Introduction: Christine Woodhead
Traditional study of the Ottoman empire based upon narrative sources inevitably focused on the dynasty in Istanbul, its military undertakings and its centralized administration. This tended towards a relatively narrow, government-centred assessment of the empire’s ‘rise and decline’, easily correlated with more, and generally less, competent sultans. Echoes of this easy schematic approach, which tied the health of the empire as a whole to dynastic and governmental stability, still linger in general history textbooks, to the despair of most Ottomanist historians. Given its strong focus on Istanbul-centred government, traditional historiography did not raise such questions about how the wider state functioned or about the lives and outlook of Ottoman people.