The comparative study of empires is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing fields since the end of the Cold War. Dominic Lieven was among those who paved the way with his Empire: The Russian Empire and its Rivals (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), which was followed with some later additions such as Karen Barkey’s Empire of Difference: The Ottomans in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) and Jane Burbank and Frederic Cooper’s Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010). Indeed the field of empires is so vast that the combinations and permutations of comparative studies are endless.
This volume is composed of twenty- four essays by many prominent figures in Ottoman studies in Europe as well as North America, with topics spanning from the fourteenth to the twentieth century, and an approach that poses the Ottoman Empire as a state and society with porous rather than fixed boundaries. The ambitious scope and intriguing framework of this collected volume are of course a fitting reflection of Suraiya Faroqhi’s own varied and extensive body of work (and the volume ends with a helpful inventory of Professor Faroqhi’s many publications, which include eight books and over 150 articles). As the editors point out in the introduction to the volume, it was Professor Faroqhi who proposed an alternative narrative for Ottoman history to replace the Decline paradigm, offering phases of expansion, crisis, and contraction. This volume goes a step further, paying tribute to her by posing a vision of an “ecumenical” Ottoman Empire with multiple connections—economic, social, and political—to communities, regions, and activities outside the physical boundaries of the state.