The Emergence of a New Ruling Elite in the Ottoman Empire


C. Bekar MA


In this study, in the context of the Eurasian Empires Project, I plan to dwell on the emergence of the Köprülü household that imprinted its stamp on the latter half of the seventeenth century in the Ottoman Empire. I will examine the power struggle they carried out against Ottoman dynastic power and investigate the resulting transformations in Ottoman politics and political culture as well as in the relations between the state and society.

The Köprülü household

The political beginnings of the Köprülü household lie in the appointment of Köprülü Mehmed Paşa as grand vizier in 1656, in order that he would rescue the Ottoman Empire from the dire straits in which it found itself at the time. In an exceptional case in Ottoman history, Köprülü Mehmed Paşa was followed in the post of grand vizier by his two sons, two sons-in-law and nephew. More importantly, the institution of the Paşa household, pioneered in part by the Köprülüs, turned into one of the essential components of Ottoman politics by the end of the seventeenth century.


In my doctoral thesis, I plan to deal in detail with this transformation that has been quite neglected in Ottoman historiography. In what kind of a political and cultural context did the household of the Köprülüs emerge? How did they acquire power vis-à-vis the Sultan and the Imperial Household? What were the ways through which they acquired power and restructured the existing political system? What were their intellectual bases of legitimization? What kind of alliances did they make against other political structures, with whom and on which political basis? What was the influence of these alliances on Ottoman religious and cultural life? Seeking answers to such questions will help us better understand the great political changes that took place during the second half of the seventeenth century in the Ottoman Empire. In the context of the Eurasian Empires Project, it will also enable us to reach a better knowledge of some of the most important characteristics of the early modern world, like state-building and the formation of collective political identities, and to notice similarities and differences between the various political entities of the time.

Last Modified: 11-08-2014