How to be(come) an Ottoman at the End of the Eighteenth Century

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Yesil F.



Using the biography of Ebubekir Ratib Efendi, this article aims to scrutinize the typical 18th century "Ottoman" in the service of the Sublime Porte. The military defeats taken in the Balkans and Black Sea had a great impact in the formation of a new Ottoman bureaucrat in the late 18th century. The new "Ottoman" was indeed a product of changing needs and structure of the Ottoman state. Increasing need for experienced diplomats is one of the basic reasons brought the evolution of an ideal "Ottoman", from military-administrator "pasha" to scribal "efendi". The bureaucratic career of Ebubekir Ratib Efendi exemplifies the said evolution and the very domination of the Sublime Porte over the other Ottoman state institutions. Ratib Efendi, who was educated in Amedi Office, which became a busier place with the increasing prominence of diplomacy in international relations. Therefore it was no surprise that he was chosen represent the Ottoman Empire as an envoy in the court of the Habsburgs. His observations in Vienna, which were described in detail in his treatise and travelogue, opened new horizons for the Ottoman bureaucracy of the New Order. The accuracy of Ratib Efendi's descriptions of the European state and army organizations in his treatise prove that new type of "Ottoman" was emerging as well as his talents as a statesman. Ebubekir Ratib Efendi, who had a solid background on the political theories of Islam, well understood the contemporary European concepts. Ratib Efendi was instrumental not only in designing the theoretical background of the New Order policies but also the application of this theory. His impact on the codification of the regulation for viziers, his role in the foundation of the Grain Administration (Zahire Nezareti) and his service as a reisulkuttab clearly underline his practical contributions to the reorganization of the Ottoman Empire. However, Ratib Efendi, who was living in an age when factional rivalries and conflicts between political households, could not save himself from being the target of factional frictions and intrigues, which were also typical of his age.