Nükhet Varlık on Plague, Public Health, and Healing in the Ottoman Empire

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To view the images below in full size, click on them to open the gallery. Thank you to Professor Varlık for providing and/or suggesting several of these images.


Welcome to the eighth episode of the Global History Podcast, which is also the next installment in our series on ‘Global Histories of Health, Medicine, and Disease in the Early Modern World‘. 

Today, we’d like to welcome Nükhet Varlık, Associate Professor in the Faculty of History at Rutgers University–Newark and Associate Professor of History at the University of South Carolina. * In her own words, “Dr. Varlık is a historian of the Ottoman Empire with a keen interest in disease, medicine and other traditions of healing, and public health.” She is the author of Plague and Empire in the Early Modern Mediterranean World: The Ottoman Experience, 1347-1600 (Cambridge University Press, 2015; paperback, 2017; Turkish translation: Akdeniz Dünyasında ve Osmanlılarda Veba, 1347-1600, 2017), and the editor of the collected volume Plague and Contagion in the Islamic Mediterranean: New Histories of Disease in Ottoman Society (Arc Humanities Press, 2017). Her current book project is titled Empire, Ecology, and Plague: Rethinking the Second Pandemic (ca.1340s-ca.1840s). **

Last Friday, Chase spoke with Professor Varlık over skype about her research on plague, healing, and public health in the early modern Ottoman Empire, and they discussed topics including the importance of considering the Ottoman experience in the broader history of plague, the links between Ottoman imperial expansion and the spread of plague, and practices of healing in early modern Ottoman society. Listen on to find out more.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or comments about this episode, or would like to pitch us an idea for a new episode, feel free to email us at theglobalhistorypodcast@gmail.com, or send us a message on our website’s contact formfacebooktwitter, or instagram. And if you’d like to listen to more segments in this series on ‘Global Histories of Health, Medicine, and Disease in the Early Modern World’, click here or listen to the playlist on Spotify.

* CORRECTIONS: Please note that Professor Varlık has two different faculty affiliations, rather than only the one (Rutgers University–Newark) mentioned in the audio. ** Please also note that this current book project title is more up-to-date than the title mentioned in the audio.

IMAGE 1: After Pieter Coecke van Aelst, A Turkish Funeral from the frieze Ces Moeurs et fachons de faire de Turcz (Customs and Fashions of the Turks), 1553. Publisher: Mayken Verhulst, in Antwerp (?) Medium: Woodcut. Dimensions: Sheet: 13 11/16 × 21 1/4 in. (34.7 × 53.9 cm). Accession Number: 28.85.5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1928. Public Domain.

IMAGE 2: Alexis Hubert Jaillot, ‘Estats de l’Empire du Grand Seigneur des Turcs’, 1700. In Atlas Francois, Contenant les Cartes Geographiques dans lesquelles sont tres exactement remarquez Les Empires, Monarchies, Royaumes et Estats de Europe, de l’Asie, de l’Afrique et de l’Amerique (Paris: Chez le Sr. Hubert Jaillot, 1695), page 109. Obj. Height: 47 cm. Obj. Width: 66 cm. Scale 1:10,200,000. Pub. List Number: 12044.000. David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. © 2000 by Cartography Associates. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0).

IMAGE 3: Melchior Lorck, Prospect of Constantinople, Sheet 9, 1559. Form: 21 drawings; 42.5 x 1127.5 cm. Shelf-mark: BPL 1758 / 9. Universitaire Bibliotheken Leiden, accessed via Wikipedia. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

IMAGE 4: Detail of Süleymaniye Mosque from Melchior Lorck, Prospect of Constantinople, Sheet 10, 1559. Form: 21 drawings; 42.5 x 1127.5 cm. Shelf-mark: BPL 1758 / 10. Universitaire Bibliotheken Leiden, accessed via Wikipedia. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

IMAGE 5: Piri Reis, Map of the City of Istanbul, from Book on Navigation, late 11th century AH/17th century AD – early 12th century AH/18th century AD. Description: “Originally composed in 932 AH/AD 1525 and dedicated to Sultan Süleyman I (“The Magnificent”), this great work by Piri Reis (d. 962 AH/AD 1555) on navigation was later revised and expanded. Walters manuscript W.658, made mostly in the late 11th century AH/AD 17th, is based on the later expanded version and has some 240 exquisitely executed maps and portolan charts.” Medium: opaque watercolor and ink on laid European paper; bound between boards covered with red leather and gold. Accession Number: W.658.370B. Height: 13 3/8 in. x Width 9 7/16 in. (34 cm x 24 cm). Place of Origin: Turkey. The Walters Art Museum. Acquired by Henry Walters. CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication.

IMAGE 6: Bowl, Hegira 10th-11th century / AD 16th-17th century. Description: “This bowl has a central high boss and gadrooned sides. Vessels of this shape, harking back to antique libation bowls, were used in the Islamic world in the hammam or as magic bowls. The magic healing properties of this particular bowl are betrayed by the undeciphered symbols on the rim. Qur’anic verses ornament the frieze under the rim and the sides of the boss, while on its flattened top is inscribed, within a six-pointed star, the name of Allah.” Material: tinned cooper. Diameter: 18 cm. Period: Ottoman. Provenance: Turkey. Holding Museum: Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece. Museum Inventory Number: 13761. Webpage Credit: “Bowl” in Explore Islamic Art Collections. Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. MWNF Working Number: GR 24. © Museum With No Frontiers (MWNF) 2004 – 2020. Image: © Benaki Museum.

IMAGE 7: Pieter Coecke van Aelst, ‘Byzantium Nunc Constantinopolis’, 1553, in The Turks in MDXXXIII : a series of drawings made in that year at Constantinople / by Peter Coeck Aelst ; … published from woodblocks by his widow at Antwerp in MDLIII … ; with an introduction by Sir William Stirling Maxwell (London and Edinburgh: Privately Printed, 1873). Oblong fol. : ill. 100 copies. Provenance: Presented to Queen Victoria by Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, the editor, 24 April 1874. RCIN 1070326. Royal Collection Trust. Image suggested by Professor Varlık.

IMAGE 8: Jean-Antoine Guer, La Ville et le Port de Constantinople (View of Istanbul), in Moeurs et usages des Turcs, leur religion, leur gouvernement civil, militaire et politique: avec un abrégé de l’histoire Ottomane, par M. Guer, Avocat (Paris, Chez Coustelier, 1746), vol. Ι. Hellenic Library – Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation. Copyright 2014: Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation. Image suggested by Professor Varlık.

IMAGE 9: Jean-Antoine Guer, Vue du Grand Sérail de Constantinople (View of the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul), in Moeurs et usages des Turcs, leur religion, leur gouvernement civil, militaire et politique: avec un abrégé de l’histoire Ottomane, par M. Guer, Avocat (Paris, Chez Coustelier, 1746), vol. Ι. Hellenic Library – Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation. Copyright 2014: Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation. Image suggested by Professor Varlık.

IMAGE 10: Melchior Lorck, A Turkish burial site on a highway, protected with large rocks against hyenas and jackals, in Wohlgerissene und geschnittene Figuren… (ca. 1619–26). Medium: Woodcut. Dimensions: Overall: 10 7/8 x 7 3/8 x 9/16 in. (27.6 x 18.8 x 1.5 cm). Accession Number: 32.86. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1932. Public Domain. Image suggested by Professor Varlık. Title provided by Professor Varlık.

IMAGE 11: Jewish Burial in Turkey, from the Travel Album of Bartholomäus Schachman (17r), 1590. Orientalist Museum, Doha, OM. 749. Image provided by Professor Varlık.

IMAGE 12: Christians Lamenting Their Dead, from the Travel Album of Bartholomäus Schachman (86v), 1590. Orientalist Museum, Doha, OM. 749. Image provided by Professor Varlık.

IMAGE 13: Turkish Burial, from the Travel Album of Bartholomäus Schachman (3v), 1590. Orientalist Museum, Doha, OM. 749. Image provided by Professor Varlık.

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