Becoming a baker in the Ottoman town of Rodoscuk (1546-1552): A textual analysis of the records of designation

Sert O.

NEW PERSPECTIVES ON TURKEY, no.42, pp.159-178, 2010 (Journal Indexed in SSCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2010
  • Page Numbers: pp.159-178


In the history of Ottoman institutions, their roots in a "timeless Islamic culture and mentality" have been emphasized to such an extent that Ottoman state institutions appear as perfectly defined and applied ideals and myths rather than real entities. The myth of Ottoman guilds controlling all of the empire's economic activities is one of these. As court records, which show the details of the guilds' functioning, as well as other relevant records have been examined more often after the 1980s, a new image of institutional change has emerged, and the myth of continuity has been challenged. For the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, numerous sources demonstrate transformations in various local guilds; however, for the first half of the sixteenth century, from which scarcer records have survived, it is more difficult to disprove the myth of the guilds' static nature. In this study, I analyze the court records of Rodoscuk in order to explicate the type of changes that occurred in craft organizations between 1546 and 1552. The textual analysis of the designation records of bakers and other documents concerning the crafts help to bring to light modifications to the conditions of membership of the bakers' guild by 1551, challenging the assumed myth of the monopoly over membership, or the professional restrictions on crafts.