Legalistic Discourse in Sixteenth-Century Ottoman Political Thought: A Literature Review

In world history, the sixteenth century played a transformative role in many areas, which have been described as the hallmarks of early modernity. While such transformations influenced the Ottoman Empire, the peculiar historical developments in the empire made the sixteenth century more important for history-writing. The scholarship demonstrates the increasing emphasis on law and legal-rational mentality among the intellectual circles of the empire, especially in the second half of the century. The place of increasing legalistic discourse within the political thought literature is only barely discernable, although the Ottoman historiography demonstrates its cruciality mostly without highlighting the relationships with political thought. By following the close relationship between context and political thought, the present paper aims to illustrate how significant transformations, such as bureaucratic enhancements, wars, and intercultural exchanges, shaped the content and language of legitimacy concerns and the ideas on the right government. In that sense, it explores the growing emphasis on law and increasing legalistic discourse within the empire’s political thought in the given time period by evaluating and re-examining the modern scholarship on the sixteenth-century Ottoman Empire.

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