Interim Report for the ‘Ottoman Recogito’ (OttoRec) project.
In our first meeting back in June 2018, the students and I as a group discussed what kinds of Ottoman sources we could use in Recogito. Our initial idea was to use the Istanbul sharia court registers, which, rich in economic and social history data, could be used to document the relations of the Ottoman capital with other places (both within and outside the empire). However, after a preliminary examination of available data from the İSAM (İslam Araştırmaları Merkezi, Islamic Studies Centre) website (http://www.kadisicilleri.org/), we decided that the limited availability of continuous registers over a consecutive period skewed the data too greatly to be of use. Instead, we decided to use the so-called ‘Registers of Important Affairs’ (mühimme defterleri). These sources, which provide summaries of imperial orders dispatched from Istanbul to the provinces, contain a wealth of toponymic data, covering the whole empire.
Within this vast dataset, the team decided to use register number 12, covering the years between 1570-72. The register was published in transcription and facsimile over three volumes by the Ottoman Archives, and available to download in a PDF format from the archives’ website). Our choice was made according to the following criteria: that this was a period of rapid and important change at the geopolitical level, with wars on different fronts and imperial orders dispatched to meet those challenges. Furthermore, it was during this period that the limits of the empire’s expansion were set and its borders consolidated. Such a source therefore allows us to identify the locations with which the imperial centre was corresponding at a critical juncture in its history. Thus, as both a quantitative (i.e., the number of toponyms contained) and qualitative dataset, the particular source represents an ideal pilot study for shedding light on the internal and external networks that Istanbul had with other places.
The register contains more than 900 pages and 1,283 orders. With the initial upload of the text to Recogito, the index was removed in order to avoid duplicates. Four of the research assistants were each allocated a section of the transcribed text with the task of annotating and georeferencing each place name that they encountered. Currently the project team has annotated more than 12,000 entries (see figure 1).
Figure 1: The more than 12,000 locations thus far annotated in the text.
Meanwhile, another member of the team was given the task of identifying and documenting the places that are not included in the gazetteers used by Recogito. The results will form the base for a digital gazetteer of the Ottoman world that will be linked to those other historical gazetteers (using the Pelagios-WHG interconnection format). Part of this work entails finding coordinates for these non-located places, but it also requires matching our data to pre-existing non-digital Ottoman gazetteers that serve particular periods and/or regions of the empire. One such gazetteer, published by the Istanbul Ottoman Archives entitled Osmanlı Yer Adları, has been an especially valuable source. Using an automatic matching script developed by Vagelis Papadias (PhD candidate at Harokopio University, Athens), some 8,458 toponyms of Osmanlı Yer Adları have now been aligned to places with a Geonames API. To provide (more) accurate coordinates for these historical places, each entry has been manually verified and/or corrected by checking its position on the map (see figure 2).
Figure 2: The automatically-generated georeferencing of toponyms from Osmanlı Yer Adları. These toponyms are currently being verified.
The project’s next steps are as follows:
- Annotating all the toponyms found in the register
- Finding the coordinates for all the toponyms in Osmanlı Yer Adları
- Compiling a list of all non-referenced toponyms from the register
- Matching toponyms from Osmanli Yer Adlari with those from the non-georeferenced toponyms from the register
- Manually finding the coordinates for all the remaining toponyms
Antonis Hadjikyriacou, Boğaziçi University, project coordinator.