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This article proposes a reflection and avenues for research on Ottoman state policies aimed at collecting, producing, and translating knowledge across borders and learning from other macro-actors. Based on an archival study, we present and discuss a typology of knowledge “transaction” policies considering also the transition to the Turkish Republic. Our analysis covers the transformation of Ottoman diplomacy and diplomatic missions, the employment of foreign experts and international expertise, public officials’ training and studies abroad, scholarship programs, and various forms of international cooperation, including participation in international organisations and conferences. We discuss state formation in Ottoman and Republican Turkey as a hybridisation process of government technologies, techniques and knowledge translated from other states. The study focuses on public action aimed at the incorporation of governmental knowledge within the framework of continuous state-building and power struggles which were increasingly marked by the (contested) hegemony of a certain "West” and its ambiguities.

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  • 1 I would like to thank the journal referees as well as Özgür Türesay, Aylin de Tapia, Philippe Bourm (...)

1This article1 proposes a reflection and avenues for research on Ottoman and Turkish state policies aimed at collecting, producing, and translating knowledge across borders, hence at an “international” level. This inquiry aims to contribute to a better understanding of not only the “transactions” of knowledge by deliberate state policies but also state-building itself.

2We consider state making as a translation process through which a micro-actor grows to macro-size (Callon, Latour 2015). Based on Foucault’s observations (1976) about the interplay between power-knowledge relations and the study of Bourdieu et al. (2000) on the role of state sciences and knowledge in the construction of the state and its international competitiveness, we propose to consider state-building through the angle of knowledge policies. This focus allows us to observe international, transnational, and global entanglements based on a global historical sociology (Go, Lawson 2018). We argue that state-building is not an isolated process but takes place within a global and international framework shaped by regional and interstate power relations and material and symbolic constraints, competitions, struggles, resistances and conciliation at different scales and levels. We propose to study state-making as a continuous process of transaction, incorporation and hybridisation of government knowledge, techniques, and instruments that circulate in a larger space of power relations than national frontiers (Kaluszynski, Payre 2013).

3A vast literature on the convergences between state forms and policies shows that states learn from each other through various mechanisms whether in the context of relations of domination, dependence, interdependence or competition (see Hassenteufel 2019 for a review). While much of this literature focuses on the global North (especially Europe) or North-South colonial and postcolonial relations, this study focuses on the historical context of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey at the margins of Europe. It adopts the approach of “translation” (rather than convergence) which places emphasis on processes of reinterpretation and appropriation (Hassenteufel 2019). State policies aiming at knowing how and through which techniques and devices other states govern and seek “legibility” (Scott 1998) are also considered in this study as translated strategies. This article discusses this process both synchronically (how the Ottoman state elaborated knowledge policies regarding counterparts) and diachronically (how Republican Turkey systematised Ottoman policies).

4While a large part of the literature examines knowledge and policy transfers in the context of the growing power of supranational institutions after the Second World War (Delpeuch 2008, Dumoulin, Saurugger 2010), this article discusses the circulation of state knowledge in much earlier contexts. It looks into the asymmetries in these circulatory processes as suggested by Dezalay (2004; Dezalay, Garth 2011) who underlines the imperial competition to define dominant knowledge forms (see also Vauchez 2013). Our inquiry is also in line with the research agenda elaborated by Krige (2019: 2-4) who calls attention to policies which aim to control knowledge in its multiple forms, hence as part of state strategies for affirming national power and sovereignty.

5In this vein, we present and discuss public policies aimed at cross-border knowledge production and transfer, or rather “transfaire”. Elaborated within the framework of research on the connections and interdependencies in (post-)ottoman spaces, the French term “transfaire” (translated by the authors as “trans-acting”) refers to the (re)production of symbolic and technical instruments, practices, norms, and forms of knowledge “by circulation” (Aymes, Bouquet 2016). Hence, contrary to the term “transfer” which assumes a diffusion stage subsequent to isolated local productions, “transfaire” underlines a connected history paying “attention to processes of translation and co-production of normative vehicles and of the fabric out of which politics is made” (Bouquet 2016, TRANSFAIRE).

6Instead of taking borders for granted, we consider that knowledge translation policies contribute themselves to defining boundaries such as familiar vs. foreign, internal vs. external, national vs. international. This perspective allows us to grasp the specificity of the 19th century institutionalisation of “international” relations, which implies, according to Buzan and Lawson (2015), the “great transformation” of a polycentric world into a core-periphery order, changing both the distribution, resources and mode of power. This case study hence insists on the historicity of the production of reference models, international norms, hegemonic knowledge and expertise by a group of actors that defined themselves as Europe or the West (Hall 1992; Said 1979) while competing with each other for dominant positions. It attempts to observe what this process implied for Ottoman knowledge policies. Overall, we outline some research avenues to investigate how the multi-directional and multi-modal circulation of knowledge became unidirectional after the 18th century, both as an instrument and an effect of Western hegemony. How did the Ottoman policies of cross-border knowledge transactions articulate with the struggle for sovereignty within this context?

7We focus on the transition to the Turkish Republic after the First World War and do not analyse the emergence of other nation-states in the former territories of the Ottoman Empire. This article is part of a larger research project on the international dimension of Turkish state-building (Dogan 2022). It builds on the preliminary results of an extended survey in the Prime Ministry Ottoman and Republican Archives as well as Turkish diplomatic archives of the Foreign Ministry focusing on the transition period from Empire to Republic. Based on these first findings, we propose the following typology to outline the principal state policies aimed at cross border knowledge transactions and translations:
1, incorporating governmental knowledge and techniques from other states;
2, investing in permanent diplomatic missions;
3, employing foreign experts and advisors;
4, sending state agents abroad for forming public experts;
5, engaging in different forms of cooperation with international organisations and actors and participating in international exhibitions, conferences, and congresses.

  • 2 Presidency of the Republic of Turkey. Directorate of State Archives. “Research Principles in the Ar (...)

8We examine these state policies and dis/continuities between empire and nation-state based on archival sources2. The first section discusses research avenues and questions on Ottoman state policies of incorporation by highlighting its hybrid composition built on governmental knowledge and technologies translated, adapted and synthesised from other states. Second, we analyse the professionalisation of Ottoman diplomacy as part of knowledge transaction policies by investigating some specific instruments and the institutionalisation of missions into permanent embassies. We argue that these missions served as intermediaries coordinating other knowledge policies analysed in this study. The third section explores the international circulation of knowledge through transnational actors focusing on the figure of foreign/international experts. The fourth one examines the policy of sending state agents, trainees and students abroad for forming public experts and transacting knowledge and technology. The last section explores different forms of international cooperation and the participation in international organisations (IOs) and conferences as spaces of knowledge and norm production and diffusion. The principal contribution of this study is to put different policies which are studied in the literature separately into perspective and to present their articulation and their effects on state-building.

Translating Governmental Knowledge and Technologies: The Politics of Incorporation and Hybridity

9The question of which knowledge is internal (native, endemic, national) and which is external (foreign, exogenous, international) relates to the (re)definition of its symbolic, social and spatial boundaries as part of state-building by intentional or unintentional actions. Barkey (2008) and Kirkham (2017) suggest that, in the Ottoman state formation, these boundaries were based on flexible arrangements, mediations and hybridisations. The Ottoman state’s hybridity owed to constant negotiations and brokerage across these boundaries, translations and synthesis of techniques, instruments, institutions and policies from other state formations. Their sources included Persian, Abbasid, Ilkhanate, Seljuq, Mughal, Byzantine and other European states. What were the specific mechanisms of translation in the Ottoman case? We propose here two hypotheses that merit further research.

10The first one concerns the Ottoman territorial expansion policies, or as İnalcık (1954) puts it, the Ottoman methods of conquest. These methods stimulated the translation of public policy instruments and governmental knowledge as well. As a strategy assimilated from the Seljuqs, istimâlet referred to the Ottoman policy of conciliation, which was also applied in negotiations with external groups regarding their conditions of integration (İlgürel 2001, see Kolovos 2019 for other applications of this policy). This strategy reinforced the incorporation of new elements, including religious and other social institutions, providing, according to Barkey and Gavrilis (2016) non-territorial autonomy to different ethnic or religious communities. It allowed different forms of communal organisation and representation (Hadjikyriacou 2019). These governmental techniques were assimilated, according to Şentürk (2005), from previous Muslim states known to gather information on non-Muslim groups under their government to elaborate differentiated policies and rights adapted to their customs and cultures. Was this political approach to knowledge about “others”, i.e. different cultural or religious groups, an Ottoman specificity? Or is it possible to observe similar approaches in other multicultural empires?

  • 3 Askeri is an administrative category to distinguish the state agents in public service from the civ (...)

11Beldiceanu (1989: 117-8) emphasises that, unlike Byzantine law, Ottoman customary law would adopt any legal disposition or instrument from the annexed country when considered necessary. As new groups integrated with their land, animals, tools, technologies, know-how, and institutions, the state used certain instruments to make knowledge of incorporated resources and organise them. The most studied ones include the methodical recording of these populations and resources in defters (official registers) and the application of the timar system, which both have external origins (İnalcık 1954; İnalcık, Pamuk 2000). When incorporating new actor networks, the quantification policies allowed the state to describe them by numbers (Barkan 1957; İnalcık, Pamuk 2000). Religious, political and military elites and landowners were usually integrated into the askeri3 bringing with them their governmental knowledge and techniques, although it is not fully explored in the literature. These processes of incorporation by internalisation highlight state-building as translation (Callon, Latour 2015). What other translation policies were applied, for example when the territorial expansion reversed after the 17th century?

  • 4 For an encyclopaedic definition, see: İnalcık, Wansbrough 1971. See also Augusti (2011) and Horowit (...)

12Other than “incorporation” policies, a second hypothesis concerns the Ottoman authorities’ investment in translating from “foreign” actors. How did this investment articulate with other state policies such as the imtiyazat (capitulations)4 which facilitated the circulation of foreign private actors by granting them protection and privileges?

  • 5 For example, Ateş’s (2004) study listing the Ottoman archives on Qajar Iran indicates various type (...)

13Ottoman archival documentation concerning other countries signals the diversity of information collected by a multiplicity of actors from a variety of sources across borders5. Yet, the Ottoman policies of external information networks are mostly analysed in terms of official embassy reports or intelligence activities. For example, Ágoston’s study (2007) on the systematisation of information gathering about neighbours and adversaries within the context of Habsburg–Ottoman rivalry during the 16th century provides insights to consider this type of knowledge policy as a shared strategy, which, within the framework of the competition between states, became a norm, a rule of the game in international/foreign policy. What were the other effects of knowledge policies in the international arena?

14Historical research such as Smiley (2018), Hanley (2017) and Erdem (2004) provides concrete examples on the role of knowledge dynamics between competing macro-actors in the construction of normative categories such as borders, foreigners, subjects, or rights, which relate to statehood and identity. Science studies also provide epistemological reflections regarding the circulation of knowledge and technologies across borders (e.g. Brown et al. 2019; Günergun, Raina 2010). Various studies emphasize the role of actors with transnational trajectories such as emigrants and exiles (Gasimov 2016) or Christian converts to Islam, as “cultural brokers” (Abdeljaouad et al. 2016; Ageron 2017). Most of these studies focus on translations from “Europe”. İhsanoğlu (2004: ch. 1) discusses for instance the actors and “channels of knowledge transfer”, including “diplomats, European converts to Islam, travellers, merchants, seamen, prisoners, refugees” as well as “experts and technicians”. Hamadeh (2004) proposes another perspective emphasising that cultural exchanges with Europe were not a new phenomenon specific to the 18th century and that the European influence since this period is mostly over-estimated given the diversity of models such as Persian or Mughal idioms which were influential in Ottoman early modernity. In a similar vein, Küçük (2017, 2015) highlights the multilevel interactions shaping the Ottoman science that he describes as “a creole enterprise” based on a multitude of languages and epistemic cultures.

15Even if Europe became a privileged source of knowledge, it is important to underline the historicity of this hegemonic position against the euro-centric tendency to present it as transhistorical or natural (Gavroğlu et al. 2008). Günergun (2007: 192) emphasises for instance that translation activities intended primarily to introduce “Islamic scientific knowledge” which remained dominant in Ottoman intellectual spaces until the end of the 18th century. She notes that scientific and technical exchanges with Western Europe from the 16th century were based on a reciprocal curiosity, hence a “mutual interest in the scientific knowledge produced in each other’s cultural area” (2007: 210). She argues that Western knowledge “became established” in the 19th century through Ottoman efforts to modernise state institutions (army, education, government, etc.) according to European models (2007: 192). A question is what did this institutionalisation change in the way the Ottoman state elites produced knowledge? For example, based on Türesay’s (2013) review of postcolonial Ottoman studies, we can ask whether the “colonial gaze” was also translated or in which ways?

  • 6 The study of the Swiss expert, Sauser-Hall (1938) employed by the Republican state in this translat (...)
  • 7 See the interpretative framework proposed by Hagmann and Péclard (2010) to study state-making as ne (...)

16Another question is the motivations of translation policies from the “West”. Kilinç (2005: 256) emphasises the changing definitions and “alternative renderings” of this term which as a political category referred to different states in different periods. She invites us to consider the production of epistemologies and categories (including “science”) taking into account “regional and global forms of connectedness”. Turkey’s knowledge policies must be considered in this context of connectivity, circulation processes and translation from unstable and contested centres. What were the continuities in the Republican period, given that various Ottoman policies, such as istimâlet, millet or imtiyazat, were entirely abolished? Based on the literature on the 19th century reforms translating institutions, policies, knowledge and technologies from European powers (e.g. Davison 2011), it can be argued that the construction of the Turkish republican nation-state was itself the culmination of translation processes. But even then, it is possible to observe visible differences in the way the translation policies were conceived by Ottoman and Turkish decision-makers. An obvious example is in the legal field. While the Ottoman state renewed its codification by inspiring from French codes and laws as was the case for various other states during the 19th century (Rubin 2016), the Republican state had more alternatives (as a result of the global tendency towards codification) and indeed diversified between German, Italian, Swiss and French codes. While Ottoman policymakers favoured hybridising the French code with the existing legal framework in civil law, the Republican state decided on translating directly the Swiss Civil Code. The strategy of direct translation was applied systematically except for the Commercial Code which was hybridised from multiple “Western” sources6. However, this referential was much less stable during the interwar period. It was divided and rivalled by competing models such as fascism, corporatism or Soviet socialism. Within the context of international rivalries and power struggles, the state’s translation policies should be studied as a multidimensional strategy involving several actors with divergent dispositions and interests, thus a controversial process embedded in the negotiation of statehood7.

Diplomatic Missions and Actors as Intermediaries of Cross Border Knowledge Transaction

  • 8 According to Unat (1968: 14), the first states to maintain a permanent embassy in Constantinople we (...)

17The administration of the Ottoman territory, composed of a multitude of political entities subject to the central government (Sublime Porte) in varying degrees, constituted an essential component of Ottoman diplomatic activity (Işıksel 2004). The Ottoman state elaborated various juridical instruments to regulate its relations with external groups both within and across borders (Veinstein 2008; Steensgaard 1967). While European states maintained permanent diplomatic missions (embassies) in Constantinople from the 15th century8, the Ottoman diplomatic missions were organised as temporary delegations. This asymmetry is discussed by several scholars as an assertion of Ottoman state power (Hurewitz 1961: 145; Süslü 1981: 233; Yerasimos 1999).

18Unat and Baykal (1968: 17-9) point out that the principal missions of Ottoman diplomatic delegations varied from transmitting news, gifts or invitations, to participating in ceremonies, concluding peace, certifying diplomatic documents, negotiating or consolidating alliances. They observe that carrying out surveys on science and technology was also part of their main missions and sometimes the principal one. This aspect allows us to analyse the Ottoman diplomatic missions and actors as intermediaries of cross border knowledge transactions and as part of the state’s internationalisation and translation policies.

Sefaretname as an instrument of knowledge transaction

  • 9 Upon their return, they had an audience with the Sultan, the Grand Vizier and his chief secretary ( (...)
  • 10 Venetian ambassadors’ responsibilities included presenting a report (called Relazioni) to the Venet (...)
  • 11 Göçek (1987: 16) notes that being aware of the request of the Marquis de Bonnac to translate and pu (...)
  • 12 See Korkut’s (2003) literature review for examples of Sefaretname translated, published, or reviewe (...)

19Besides discussing their trip and mission with Ottoman state leaders on their return9, the diplomats also submitted reports, called Sefaretname. The forty-nine Sefaretname identified in the archives do not allow to qualify this practice as a tradition such as the Relazioni of Venetian ambassadors although similarities are underlined by scholars10. This number, while not yet definitive (Korkut 2003), is nevertheless disproportionate, according to Beydilli (2007: 13), compared to the huge number of diplomatic missions which for the Republic of Venice alone are estimated to be at least 178. A majority of Sefaretname might have disappeared over time or were not intended to be preserved. Keeping such reports confidential might have been difficult especially when the concerned state asked for a copy, as was the case with the report of Yirmisekiz Çelebi Mehmed on France11. The numerous translations and publications in Europe indicate the interest in Ottoman observations and perceptions documented in Sefaretname, which hence operated as instruments of reflexivity for not only an Ottoman but also a European audience12.

  • 13 See Unat and Baykal’s (1968: 47-218) detailed review of a total of 42 Sefaretname which presents ea (...)
  • 14 Göçek (1987), for example, makes a comparative socio-anthropology of French and Ottoman societies b (...)

20Most of these reports described the visited countries regarding culture, geography, social life, political and economic conditions, military and educational organisation, state leaders and their subjects, events, ceremonies, and details of the diplomatic mission13. Various scholars thus consider them the most important source of information for the Ottoman state on foreign societies (Göçek 1987: 15; Korkut 2003; Yalçınkaya 1996; Yerasimos 1999), and in this respect, as historical sources for contemporary research on Ottoman perceptions about other countries14. What separates these reports, for our study, from other types of narratives on foreign countries such as travellers’ accounts, called seyahatname (Türesay 2016), is that they were produced as part of a public policy.

Turning gaze on Europe: quest for knowledge and diplomatic reciprocity

  • 15 These lists are far from being exhaustive. For Venice for instance 20 missions are listed by Süslü (...)
  • 16 For example, the mission letter of Mehmed Efendi prescribed him “to make an in-depth study of the m (...)

21According to Süslü (1981: 236), the first archived Sefaretname was written in China between 1419 and 1421. The fact that China was a great power in economic and technical terms during this period affirms the hypothesis that the Ottoman diplomatic missions were aimed at observing and learning from dominant states as part of knowledge policies. According to Yeşil (2011a), the defeats against Russia and Austria resulted towards the end of the 18th century in a change in both Ottoman diplomacy and the reporting methods by diplomatic agents. With increasing interest in learning from the West, diplomatic travels involved “a new type of espionage” aiming to study social and economic structures of foreign powers and “how the states functioned at every level”. The lists provided by Süslü (1981) and Unat and Baykal (1968) indeed indicate the relative weight of missions to Austria, Venice, France, Persia, Russia, Poland and England15. The majority of the available Sefarename were written about European countries during the 18th and 19th centuries, in parallel with the growing diplomatic relations with these countries whose economic and technical power both fascinated and threatened the Ottoman state16. In this context, Yerasimos (1999: 76) notes that “the establishment of permanent Ottoman embassies at the main European courts seems to stem less from the concern for active diplomacy than from the desire to learn more directly about Europe’s progress”.

  • 17 Regarding Phanariots’ integration in the system of Ottoman governance see Philliou (2009).

22The first attempt at diplomatic reciprocity from 1793 (establishing a permanent embassy first in London) was interrupted in 1821 when, with the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, the Ottoman government decided to close down its permanent missions which were then all headed by its Greek diplomats, especially from Phanariot elite circles17. Permanent embassies were re-established first in Paris and London in 1834, then in Vienna (1835) and Tehran (1849) followed by others in Europe (Hurewitz 1961: 148). Hurewitz remarks that the Ottoman Empire hence became “the first non-Christian country to participate in the European state system and the first unconditionally to accept its form of diplomacy”. He interprets it as “a major step in the transformation of the European state system into a world system” and “in the Westernization of the Ottoman state” (1961: 141), which, in our view, is a eurocentric interpretation of the Ottoman responses to the Western domination. We can ask, however, following Ispahani (2018) among others, whether the Ottoman state’s strategies to cope with the asymmetries and contradictions in the application of international law or more direct threats of domination contributed paradoxically to the Western “hegemony”. The strategies to resist and counteract domination by reforming the state to survive in the new configuration of international power relations illustrate the symbolic violence which implied the internalisation of hierarchies and norms resulting from this configuration.

The professionalisation of diplomacy and the diplomatic vocation

  • 18 Rossow (1962) defines professionalisation as the process in which “the members of a vocation organi (...)
  • 19 According to Süslü (1981: 234) these grades previously involved “a certain uncertainty”.

23The professionalisation of the diplomatic vocation is often studied in terms of adaptation to European norms. However, the history of diplomacy points to intertwined relations which cannot be explained simply in terms of diffusion from the European centre. In fact, Rossow (1962) dates the professionalisation of diplomacy in general (i.e. in Europe) to the same period, at the end of the Napoleonic era18. Recent studies emphasise the global dimension of this process. Ottoman diplomacy was part of this global history (Badel, Jeannesson 2014). We observe these interactions, for instance, in the reorganisation of the Ottoman diplomatic ranks according to the new international terminology (ambassador, minister plenipotentiary, chargé d’affaires, etc.) which resulted from multilateral efforts of standardisation in the early 19th century19. While international norms regarding diplomats took shape at European multilateral congresses during this period, considering the Ottoman involvement with several of them, research might illuminate a mutual process of diplomatic professionalisation (Palabıyık 2014 provides valuable insights).

  • 20 Reisülküttap who acted de facto as Foreign Minister officially took this title (Hariciye Nazırı) wi (...)
  • 21 For example, Yalçınkaya (1994) analyses the first permanent mission which brought three Muslims fro (...)

24In the Ottoman case, this process derived from the state’s efforts to discipline a diplomatic corps as a response to what it considered to be inner or external threats. While the selection criteria which required knowledge of the destination country’s conjuncture and language persisted, the recruitment policies adapted to the political context. From the 18th century onwards, the state sought to nominate its diplomats among the department in charge of foreign relations (Süslü 1981: 235). This department traditionally was the imperial council Divanı hümayun’s bureaucratic organisation led by the head clerk Reis Efendi which, equipped with translators, served as the secretariat of the grand vizier. The bureaucratic reforms, which began in 1792 (Nizam-ı Cedid) in parallel with the first attempt at diplomatic reciprocity, transformed this service into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 183620 (Ergin 1977: 64, 68; Findley 1972). The new regulation required the embassies to receive young Ottomans willing to learn languages, sciences, arts and crafts abroad (Yalçınkaya 2001: 118). Research on these practices21 supports the hypothesis that permanent embassies contributed to the systematisation of cross border knowledge transactions.

  • 22 See especially the case of Phanariots (Philliou 2009). While the state initially aimed to replace G (...)

25The Greek struggle for independence during the 1820s made it necessary to replace the Greek officials who traditionally monopolised translator posts and dominated the department thanks to their linguistic capital which they owed to the schools of the Greek Patriarchate22. As a response, the Tercüme Odası (Translation Bureau), created in 1821, served as a school to train future public officials in foreign languages and French in particular, the hegemonic language of diplomacy. It translated from European sources and initiated young state officials into European thought and in particular liberal currents (Bilim 1990). Later, as other institutions (especially the Lycée de Galatasaray and other francophone or language schools, see Ergin 1977: 638-48) began to teach French, Tercüme Odası lost its educational function (Ergin 1977: 72-3) and became a department of the Foreign Ministry (Bilim 1990: 42). It continued to translate documents and press clippings received from Ottoman embassies in Europe. The ministry’s bureaucracy hence complemented the activities of diplomats in the production and translation of cross-border knowledge, which gained importance during war periods and especially after the advent of the telegraph (Hurewitz 1961: 149-50).

26It is important to situate the professionalisation of diplomacy and other bureaucratic vocations within the framework of reform policies which redefined administrative centralization and responded to the increasing necessity for new educational institutions to re/produce the bureaucratic corps. Careers in diplomacy and public administration increasingly required a Western education. The reformation of military schools was extended during the 19th century to the reorganisation of the Ottoman educational system. Based on the French model of grandes écoles, new schools were founded as an alternative or complementary to madrasa to train civil servants who were trained before directly in state departments (Ergin 1977: 386-406, 594-619; Erozan, Turan 2004).

27Overall, the shift in the balance of power from the late 18th century resulted in new forms of international relations and growing demand for knowledge about Western states and implied structural changes in Ottoman statehood. The systematisation of cross-border knowledge transactions by diplomatic agents merits in this regard further research.

The coordinating role of the embassies: the transition to Republican Turkey

28The First World War interrupted diplomatic representations between the counterparts and resulted in the reorganisation of state sovereignty and international relations. Both Yavuz (2020: 220) and Kuneralp (1982: 505-6) emphasise the scarcity of professional diplomatic personnel during the transition period (the armed struggle, Kurtuluş Savaşı, and the first years of the Republic). Kuneralp notes that the Foreign Ministry of the National Assembly in Ankara started in 1920 with only four members, including a young woman. Ünal (2020) observes that several deputies represented the Ankara Government abroad as permanent diplomats without losing their seats in the newly established Assembly (in 1920). Although this measure was later abolished, the porosity between the governmental and diplomatic spaces continued with almost a third of ambassadors being appointed from among former deputies and ministers (and vice versa).

  • 23 Embassies were opened in newly formed states especially in Europe and Africa and former states such (...)

29The Republican state developed a more global vision in diplomacy. Şimşir (2006) suggests that while, except for the Tehran (1835) and Washington (1867) embassies, 18 of the 20 Ottoman diplomatic representations were located in Europe, the Turkish Republic opened permanent embassies on all continents during its first decade23.

  • 24 Reports might also focus on a single product such as olive oil (Dışişleri Bakanlığı Türk Diplomatik (...)
  • 25 The report of the Gothenburg ambassador on Sweden’s economic life between 1914 and 1924 (TDA 539_21 (...)
  • 26 We observe for instance many documents regarding the coordination with the League of Nations Health (...)
  • 27 See for example the report of the Paris embassy in 1877 regarding a financial expert: BOA HR.SFR.3. (...)
  • 28 See the exchanges with the London ambassador in 1883: BOA HR.SFR.3. 295/41.
  • 29 See for instance the report of the Vienna embassy in 1856/7: BOA A.AMD. 72/88.
  • 30 For example, when the government decided to call back students to employ them in training state off (...)
  • 31 BOA HR.SFR.3. 704/ 36 (25 April 1914).

30The embassies’ coordinating role in knowledge transaction policies is not fully explored in the literature. In conformity with the observations of historians such as Yeşil (2011a) or Kuran (1967), our archival study provides the following findings:
1, The embassies collected information and reported to the central government acting both as intelligence agencies and investigators. Other than reporting their general observations, the embassy officials also prepared industry or sector reports24 or thematic investigations25. These activities increased in volume and became more systematic in particular in the republican period. A large majority of the technical reports were prepared by embassies in Europe (including Russia/Soviet Republic) and to a much lesser but increasing extent (especially after the 1920s) in the United States. The intelligence services mostly concerned nearby states as well as Europe, hence at the intersection of the two, Russia and the Balkans.
2, The embassies informed the Foreign Ministry about upcoming international events such as exhibitions, conferences and congresses. The ambassador, his secretary or other embassy officials participated in international conferences and congresses either as observers or as official delegates representing Turkey. The embassies also informed about reports, resolutions, conventions or protocols produced in these conferences.
3, The embassies played a key role in all kinds of intergovernmental cooperation. They acted as coordinators and intermediaries between foreign authorities, international commissions and organisations (IOs) and the central government informing about IO activities, reports and their demands for information and data from the government
26. This function became more relevant in the 20th century, especially after the construction of the League of Nations, sheltering various technical committees and many other organisations. In this regard, the Turkish permanent missions in Bern and Geneva were particularly active. Further studies might explore the role of embassies as intermediaries between international spaces of knowledge, norm and policy production and national spaces of their incorporation and implementation.
4, The embassies coordinated the recruitment of foreign experts for different state departments. They informed the Foreign Ministry, for example, about suitable candidates
27 or the terms of negotiation28.
5, The embassies coordinated the policy of sending students and trainees to study abroad as well as state agents to make investigations or inquiries into specific sectors in foreign (European) countries. Hence, they organised and coordinated not only the inflows (experts, specialists, professors) but also the outflows. They monitored the state fellows, assisted them during their stay, reported to the central government and served as an intermediary between the latter and the receiving institutions
29. The role that embassies played in the implementation of this policy portrays how they served as an extension of the state in foreign territories30.
6, The embassies coordinated the importation of instruments of knowledge such as “books, technical tools or maps” as specified in one of the archived state documents
31. In general, they played an important role in different forms of international exchanges, including commercial forms.

31The following sections discuss these policies with further examples. The observations of this section contribute to a better understanding of some neglected aspects of global diplomatic history, especially regarding the role of diplomatic actors as intermediaries and agents of knowledge transactions. Overall, the study of the (trans)formation of diplomatic policy and the strategies of knowledge translation allows to situate state-building in international power struggles. We indeed observe increasing convergences in state institutions (including diplomacy) according to dominant models and norms of an emerging Eurocentric international system.

Employing Foreign Experts: Trans-Actors of International Knowledge

32An important public policy intended at translating knowledge from other states was the use of foreign advisors and experts. The study of the Ottoman case might contribute to the sociology of expertise which in most cases applies a Eurocentric bias in considering the employment of experts in decision-making processes as a rather recent (20th century) Western phenomenon (e.g. Robert 2008). While recent historical studies shed light on the development of expert networks and circulation of these international actors within Europe from the 19th century (Rodogno et al. 2014, Kaiser, Schot 2014), their role in non-Western contexts was mostly studied as isolated cases. We observe a tendency in the scientific literature which assumes that this phenomenon first emerged in Europe, developed and institutionalised through IOs and diffused to the Global South through development programs in the after-war period.

33The Ottoman case allows us to observe how a non-Western country developed the policy of employing experts in public action well before it began to employ European experts. It enables to highlight the historicity of the hegemony of Western expertise as a phenomenon developed during the 19th century. The institutional framework for the employment of experts was not designed or imposed by Western powers even though they developed strategies for massively exporting their experts and invested in “technical assistance” programs from the 19th century onwards. Various archive documents about Ottoman experts indicate that this policy was not solely designed on an international level. While further research is necessary to better grasp how Ottoman decision-makers perceived expertise (see Martykánová 2014 on the case of engineering expertise), the role of specialised councils and ulema scholars in public administration (Ipsirli 2004) indicate a state tradition. This institutional framework, which allowed for the employment of transnational actors, especially refugees, as advisors or experts, took on a new form with the systematisation of the policy of employing foreign experts during the 19th century at the intersection of two struggles. On the one hand, Ottoman political leaders sought to transfer technology from the Western powers that threatened the state on military, political and economic grounds. The positions offered to Western experts and advisors coincided, on the other hand, with the international strategies of these elites (as observed by Dezalay 2004), who contributed to exporting and legitimising hegemonic state knowledge and models. These two struggles had long term effects also shaping the formation of the new Turkish state according to dominant models.

From the migrant-refugee to the foreign advisor: the role of European experts as intermediaries of knowledge policies

34The Ottoman population policies which promoted mobility and circulation and made the state a receiver of migrants and refugees were also motivated by knowledge and technology transfer among other calculated benefits. Veinstein (2009) notes for instance that the Ottoman authorities received the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 expecting that they would bring specific know-how and skills in different areas (as well as economic capital). He emphasises the pragmatism guiding their immigration policies and the employment of immigrants in important positions such as medicines or advisors to the sultan at least since the 15th century.

35Expertise as a capitalised form of knowledge and skills played a role in transnational circulations. Previous studies provide examples regarding the role of transnational actors who introduced new technologies and expertise. Well-known examples include the introduction of printing technology by Jewish refugees from the 16th century onwards (Erginbaş 2014), the role of the Hungarian refugee, İbrahim Müteferrika, in the Ottoman-Turkish press in the early 18th century (Coşgel et al. 2012), or Comte de Bonneval (1675-1747) who was invited to strengthen the Ottoman army suffering from increasing defeats (Ergin 1977: 59-60, 49-50). Bonneval was a French aristocrat and officer who fled to Austria and became an army general and an advisor to the emperor, then being exiled, took refuge in Ottoman Bosnia. Having political ambitions, he converted to Islam, changed his name to Ahmed and presented reports to Ottoman authorities advising military reforms (Özcan 1988; Landweber 2008). He was entrusted with the organisation and command of the Ottoman artillery. He established and trained bombardier and mortar troops according to European methods and technologies. As an advisor to the grand-vizir he reported on the administrative and military organisation of Austria; kinship rivalries and alliances between European dynasties proposing strategies for foreign policy and diplomacy; as well as military and political reforms (Yeşil 2011b). Özcan (1988) notes that Ahmed Pasha mostly acted upon French interests and informed French authorities of his advising activities. He published his memoirs which included his observations on Ottoman military organisation and strategies (Bonneval 1737). Bonneval provides a representative example of migrants / refugees as transnational experts or advisors. Circulating between state fields and having political ambitions, this expert figure accumulated resources that he invested to climb to key influential positions in competing states. It was precisely this circulation which allowed him to have access to and capitalise on knowledge in the form of expertise in military and foreign affairs.

36We observe new types of transnational actors during the 18th century with more professional career trajectories in state bureaucracy or diplomacy such as the well-known example of François Baron de Tott (1733-1793). Like his Hungarian father, Tott was a French diplomat competent in Turkish. While serving in Crimea as consul he played an important role in the Ottoman-Russian War (1768–1774) as French interests required at that time to defend the Ottomans against the growing power of Russia in Europe. The Ottoman government entrusted this French officer with the reformation of Ottoman artillery and the organisation of a military school. He reported his observations on the Ottoman state to the French government and participated in the new policy aimed at its disintegration and colonisation. In a latter mission as inspector of the Levant Ports, he examined the feasibility of an expedition to Egypt that he defended ardently, a project which would have to wait until the Napoleonic endeavour (Tóth 1997; 2013). He published his memoirs in four volumes compiling his ideas on the colonisation of the Ottoman Empire and observations on its social and political system that he framed based on Montesquieu’s theory of oriental despotism (Tott 1784). According to Aksan (2002), Tott was an example of the military adventurers who crowded into Istanbul in the late 18th century and served as “self-appointed cultural mediators, often double agents”, providing intelligence about the Ottoman state and contributing to narratives of Ottoman backwardness and oriental despotism.

37Transnational private actors also participated in transactions of expertise between European centres and the Ottoman state. An example was the French captains, businessmen and entrepreneurs Bernard Collas and Marius Michel (aka Michel Pacha) who established the Société Collas & Michel in 1860 acquiring important concessions from the Ottoman state for assuring lighthouse services. Based on this example, Thobie (2004) discusses the activities of European private actors in Ottoman state administrations which transformed public services into sources of profitable business for transnational companies. Having access to official archives and documentation owing to his relations with senior Ottoman officials, Collas published La Turquie en 1864. As a self-proclaimed expert on Turkey, he claimed in this study to bring to light the country’s unstudied aspects regarding economy and resources for a new civilisational program that consisted of promoting international commercial relations based on international law for a united world (Collas 1864). This idea was not specific to Collas but part of a liberal internationalism which sought to institutionalise a global government to reform states according to the necessities of expanding capitalism and promoted westernisation as a globalisation project alternative to direct colonisation (see the example of Enfantin 1849).

  • 32 Our study does not include an analysis of this administration which is studied by Birdal (2010) as (...)
  • 33 For his biography and activities in Constantinople see Elmacı (2011) and Güzel (1991).

38These experts might be considered as knowledge transactors producing and circulating hegemonic knowledge and representations according to imperial interests. Further research might assess the extent to which the development of European expertise and policies regarding the Ottomans owed to these intermediary actors. Their international publications contributed to both the elaboration of the “Eastern question” and a growing Orientalist literature during the 19th century which, as argued by Said (1979), constructed “the West” as the vector of civilization and progress while depicting the Oriental other as essentially different, lacking and inferior (see also Bozdoğan 1988; Hall 1992). A final remarkable example in this regard is the work of the Polish French expert Léon Ostroróg (1867-1932) who served in the Administration of the Ottoman Public Debt (Düyun-u Umumiye)32 and was later employed as a chief advisor at the Ministry of Justice between 1909 and 191433. Besides publishing his policy proposals to reform the Ottoman justice according to Western models (1912) he also published Le Problème turc presented in the preface as “a book of great science” and a reference for the political “program of France in the Levant” (Ostroróg 1917: xiii).

39From the 19th century to the proclamation of the Republic many other examples indicate that foreign experts having a transnational professional trajectory served directly or indirectly the imperial interests taking part in debates about solutions to the “Eastern Question”. The examples mentioned here depict a transnational advisor-expert who contributed to asymmetric knowledge relations by acting upon the political interests of the exporting country. These characteristics do not apply to all European experts as there were various counterexamples such as Alexander Parvus who contested “European imperialism” and “dependency” while advising the Young Turk government (see for instance Karaömerlioglu 2004; Dumont 2011). The study of Martykánová (2016; Martykánová, Kocaman 2018) on European engineers working in the Ottoman Empire highlights the diversity of cases and trajectories. Further research is necessary to propose a proper typology of experts circulating across borders, transacting knowledge and contributing to (or contesting) the transformation of non-European states according to Western models within unequal power relations after the 18th century. Comparative work regarding the experience of Ottoman provincial governments and other sovereign or semi-sovereign countries of the Global South might provide important insights for a global historical sociology of expertise.

Bringing in foreign experts: an international state policy

40The employment of foreign experts in public administration and reform policies increased on an unprecedented scale from the 19th century onwards. Official archival documents from this period show that these experts were mostly recruited from Western Europe. This phenomenon is not an Ottoman specificity as studies on other cases such as Russia (Rieber 1990), Japan (Beauchamp, Iriye 1990), Greece (Vacalopoulos 2008), Egypt (Mitchell 1988; 2002) or colonial administrations (Hodge 2007; Tilley 2011; Sibeud et al. 2013) point out. This literature indicates in fact the worldwide circulation of Western experts during the 19th century which contributed to the “new imperialism” (Buchanan 1986), a relationship that was formalised in more institutional forms during the interwar period (Bourmaud et al. 2020; Rosenberg 1987).

  • 34 Although they are rare, we also observe experts invited from other continents. See the example of t (...)

41The literature would benefit from studies investigating how the Ottomans as an importer state defined experts and expertise, how they chose and employed them, for what purpose. A first observation is that these foreign experts were mostly (and increasingly) middle-aged white males with a high degree of cultural, social, and political capital occupying key positions in imperial states (Austria and German Empire, France, Britain, Belgium, etc.). Although Western elites did not have a monopoly on expertise, as some cases of experts invited from other regions indicate, they were a clear majority and held privileged positions as administrators or reformers34. The monopoly of male experts was broken in the early republican period with a few but increasing number of female experts (especially in education and architecture) as part of global tendencies regarding women’s access to education and professionalisation which was still very limited in the world during the interwar period. We also observe that the experts employed during this period were more diversified in terms of their origins and trajectories.

42The investigation carried out in the official archive database for the 19th to early 20th centuries is based on a keyword search: mütehassıs, müşavir, uzman, eksper, which translate into English as expert, advisor, or specialist. The results indicate that these notions were part of the state terminology in both periods, however with variations that deserve further analysis. We observe, for example, that the term "eksper" borrowed directly from Latin towards the end of the 19th century is very rarely used. "Müşavir" is often used for political, military, and legal advisors, which corresponds to the Ottoman conception of the political-administrative field. The preferred terms for technical expertise were "mütehassıs" and "uzman". The latter took over during the republican period. These terms were not used systematically in the documents concerning the employment of experts, as most of them only specified the profession, especially when it was to employ engineers and university professors.

43A comprehensive study is necessary also to observe the formation of sectors of expert activity which seem to follow a certain chronology during the 19th century according to the changing context and redefinition of necessities, or rather sectors of state intervention and public action. It is possible to observe the development of governmental sciences and techniques and governmentalization analysed by scholars in cases limited to Western Europe (Ihl et al. 2003; Laborier et al. 2011) as a broader and international process. Extensive research is required to verify a first hypothesis according to the results of the keyword inquiry indicating that experts were invited mostly for industry and mining for the first half of the 19th century while increasingly for infrastructures, agriculture, medicine, pandemics, pharmaceutics, and chemistry during the second half, for finance, military and security institutions (including criminology and police administration) especially after the 1870s. While the role of foreign experts in certain sectors such as medicine, education, engineering, military or police organisation (e.g. Lévy 2008) drew much scholarly attention, there is still no chronological and comparative study to observe the overall picture.

  • 35 See for example: BOA HR.SFR.3. 251 / 22 (1877); HR.SFR.3. 478 / 43 (1899).
  • 36 According to this study, in 1838, the Ottoman sultan asked the Paris ambassador (Ahmet Fethi Pasha) (...)

44There is sufficient empirical evidence to characterise the use of expertise in public administration as a professional relationship between expert and employer (state) certified by a contract. Further research may inform more on the procedures for employing private versus public actors as experts. The second case seems to involve, for instance, a bureaucratic process where an official demand was addressed to the foreign ministry of the exporter country35. As for the selection process, the main criteria often sought specialisation in a field, hence professionals with qualifications and experience, which were verified and confirmed by intermediaries, mostly the embassies. The study of Öztürk and Karasu (2014) on the recruitment of Doctor C. A. Bernard as a medical expert confirms this observation36. Martykánová and Kocaman’s study (2018) on engineers signal the diversity of cases but also some general tendencies in intergovernmental or individual procedures, for instance when it was the Ottomans travelling or studying abroad who served as intermediaries of recruitments. Ortaylı’s study (1981) on the massive employment of German experts towards the end of the 19th century informs on the political arrangements which determine the framework and procedures relating to this policy in a “neocolonial” context. The massive employment of European experts in Ottoman administrations at the turn of the century was also highlighted by the experts themselves such as Ostroróg (1917), who developed professional class consciousness. Ostroróg advocated indirect rule by putting the Ottoman state under the administration of British and French expert officials (1917: 182-204).

  • 37 For instance, the ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs (especially the Immigration Office) to (...)
  • 38 Several cases in the Republican archives show that Turkish citizens who worked for another state wi (...)
  • 39 A first example might be the regulation in 1924 on contracts with European experts to work longer t (...)
  • 40 See for example: BCA 30-18-1-2 / 34-16-15 (18.03.1933) and 40-73-13 (17.10.1933).
  • 41 E.g. BCA 30-18-1-1 / 25-39-11 (June 1927).

45The employment of foreign experts continued during the world war from the political allies such as Germany and Hungary and involved increasing control mechanisms37. The Republican government continued and refined the control mechanisms on cross border circulations38 and sought to regulate and standardise the contracts which were limited to short periods39. The Republican archives allow for a better understanding of the expert employment policies since the regulatory instruments were archived more systematically. Since the early years of the Republic, authorisation for the recruitment of a foreign expert was subject to the approval of the Executive Council (İcra Vekilleri Heyeti) and authorised by the decrees (kararname) signed by the President of the Republic and ministers. These decrees mentioned the position (department, function, duration) and the expert, his field of expertise, and if available, his name, title (Prof., Dr., M.), status and salary40. Our findings suggest a multiplicity of functions occupied by foreign experts, whether to lead a public administration or to work in less influential positions as technicians. As in the Ottoman period, contracts served as the principal instrument to frame and limit the authority and autonomy of these inter/transnational actors, but in the Republican period, they were thoroughly standardised and much more restrictive. These standard contracts for "foreign experts"41 therefore also restricted the autonomy of the public administrations that employed them.

  • 42 Commonly designated as prestige, authority or recognition, the concept of symbolic capital refers t (...)

46The archival study indicates that symbolic capital42 in the form of international recognition of skills and experience became more important in the 20th century for accessing administrative expert positions. This recognition correlated with their circulation in foreign countries, international conferences and organisations (being invited or nominated) as experts as well as the social capital they accumulated in this process. Studying the employment of “international” actors with transnational trajectories, work experience in international organisations and connections in transnational expert communities and networks helps to shed light on their privileged position in the production and diffusion of hegemonic knowledge (see also Dezalay 2004). These actors situated in both international and national spaces contributed to the formation of international systems through norm diffusion, especially when hired not only to advise the government but were entrusted with the constitution, administration or reorganisation of a state institution (Dogan 2019). They played a key role in the elaboration of international policies, their application to national contexts and the globalisation of international models, especially during the interwar period working as experts in the League of Nations’ various technical committees or in other IOs which started to operate in a more global scale (see for example Bourmaud et al. 2020; Cussó 2020; Decorzant 2011; Ribi Forclaz 2016).

47The growing number of foreign experts invited to Turkey after the war seems to be associated with this global tendency rather than being specific to Turkey. Starting from the first years of the Republic, the government invited many specialists and professionals in all sectors of public action for multiple missions:
1, to conduct surveys and make inquiries in their areas of expertise;
2, to prepare reports presenting their findings and suggestions to the government;
3, to advise the government in decision and policy making and implementation;
4, to participate in the application of expert reports or official plans;
5, to lead state institutions, their constitution or reorganisation;
6, to train public agents either through apprenticeship or education programs;
7, for brief interventions, to give lectures, seminar presentations or participate in scientific or professional conferences.

48This typology (constructed according to archival documentation) indicates how the research, educational and political functions of experts were intertwined. It is hence not surprising to observe the relative weight of university professors and scientists among the foreign (as well as national) specialists employed as experts and advisors. It is especially the case of refugee scientists and professors fleeing Nazism and fascism in Europe during the 1930s. They were employed in Turkey both as professors in Istanbul University and Ankara faculties and as experts in various ministries and public administrations (Reisman 2006; Widmann 2000).

49Employing refugee scientists or Soviet experts and diversifying sources of expertise was one of the various strategies of the Republican state to counter the imperial entanglements of Western expertise. While Turkey continued to be an importer of international expertise, the state also invested in the production of national experts and sought to participate in the international community which defined hegemonic knowledge.

Forming Public Experts Abroad: International Studies and Surveys in Foreign Countries

  • 43 Analysing the writings of geographers, sea captains, travellers, cartographers among other state ag (...)

50Not only experts, diplomats, spies, scientists and geographers43 but also other state agents contributed to international knowledge transactions. Here we briefly introduce the policy of sending state agents abroad for the purpose of studying and learning from other states.

  • 44 BOA HR.İD. 183/ 64 (1915).

51Archive documents highlight the systematisation of this policy especially towards the end of the Ottoman Empire and during the first decade of the Republic. Not only civil and public servants and officials but also elected deputies and ministers, and other types of public employees, trainees, and apprentices in state institutions (including public companies) were sent abroad to make investigations into a specific sector, institution, or field of specialisation. This policy targeted almost exclusively European countries (including the Soviets) and to a much lesser but increasing extent the United States and intended to minimise intermediary actors in transacting international knowledge. For example, an archive document of the Interior ministry noted in 1915 that it was not possible to learn about the Austrian police institution “through instructions”, but rather an expert committee should be sent to Vienna to study it on site44. Further research is necessary to verify the hypothesis that this policy was developed as a strategy either to replace the foreign expert with the local or to complement foreign expertise, interrupting its privileged position in the translation of knowledge and technologies. In various archival documents, especially of the Republican period, the aim of sending the officer to be “trained as an expert in” a specific field was explicit (mütehassısı yetiştirilmek maksadile).

  • 45 E.g. BCA 30-18-1-1 / 27.71.11 (December 1927).
  • 46 E.g. BCA 30-18-1-2 / 3.29.15 (May 1929).
  • 47 BCA 30-18-1-1 / 10.40.15 (August 1924).

52The Turkish state implemented this policy more extensively in all sectors of public action. Especially during the first years of the Republic, it was combined with other international policies to reduce the travel expenses given the financial difficulties of the period. The state officials who travelled across Europe to participate in international conferences or events also made investigations in the host country45 or others on their way back46. For example, the general manager of the Postal and Telegraph administration who travelled to Stockholm in 1924 for the international postal congress would then stop by in Berlin and Hamburg to make investigations in this field47.

53This policy involved not only short-term missions but also training programs or internships for several months or years. While it targeted public agents who already had a degree, a profession and a position to train them in specific know-how and specialise them as experts, the policy of scholarships was developed to finance the studies of future civil servants abroad.

Funding studies abroad: circulation of future state officials for international studies

54It is possible to trace back the policy of training public agents abroad to earlier centuries. The education of the Ottoman ulema (plural of the Arabic word “âlim”, scholar, derived from “ilm”, knowledge) as members of the ilmiye working in legal, educational, religious, and occasionally bureaucratic or community services, involved double scientific mobility during the first centuries. Upon their teacher’s recommendations in the medrese (higher education institutions), Ottoman students left to complete their education at famous ilm centres of their time such as Cairo, Samarkand, Bukhara, Transaxona, Baghdad and Damascus. Famous scholars from these centres were also invited to teach at medrese as visiting professors. Both medrese teachers and students circulated between scientific spaces where different knowledge, ideas, philosophies, and techniques were encountered, transacted and circulated. This tradition became less frequent after the conquest of Constantinople and rare especially from the 16th century (Ipsirli 2004).

55Especially from the 17th century onwards, Ottoman elites travelled to study in European universities. However, these cases remained exceptional and did not receive state funding until the early 19th century, when the state reviewed its education policy and started to send young Ottomans to Europe to make use of their acquired knowledge and skills in public service upon their return. According to Kuran (1967: 494), it was by observing Egypt’s governor implementing this policy that the Porte also experimented with it after the 1820s. In this regard, comparative research might help to better understand how the public policy of funding international studies has become a shared strategy in the Global South since the 19th century.

  • 48 The observations of Esad Bey, the director of the Mekteb-i Osmani from a report dating 1864 are cit (...)

56It is argued that Ottoman decision-makers conceived this policy to transfer European advancements in science and technology (Erdoğan 2010: 125) and to reduce reliance on foreign experts and professors (Gençoğlu 2014: 35). An official directly involved in its implementation, stated the aim was to form qualified personnel for Ottoman manufacturers, engineers for infrastructure projects, teachers for the new schools and professionals in other public services48. Within this framework, both male and female, Muslim and non-Muslim Ottoman citizens (Çolak 2013) travelled to study in European cities which were both scientific centres and capitals of dominant political actors. Receiving the first state funded Ottomans, Paris stood out also as the primary destination during the 19th century. Gençoğlu (2014: 37) emphasises that this trend was not specific to the Ottomans, that the number of international students in this cultural capital significantly increased from the 18th century and that the Ottoman share was approximately 10% around the 1890s.

  • 49 According to Gençoğlu’s study (2014: 37) covering the reign of Abdülhamid II (1876-1909), 191 Ottom (...)

57The role of intergovernmental cooperation in education (scholarship policies, multilateral institutions, exchange programs, etc.) requires further research to better observe the elaboration and implementation of this policy. Indeed, political relations and cooperation weighted on the choice of destinations. Erdoğan (2010: 127) observes for instance that Prussia seeking to strengthen its ties with the Ottoman state manifested through the Berlin embassy their willingness to receive Ottoman students in the early 1850s. When the German Empire became a close Ottoman ally, it also became the second prominent receiver of Ottoman students49 while sending an increasing number of experts, in particular to reform the Ottoman army that they commanded as high-ranking officers (Gençoğlu 2014: 38; Ortaylı 1981).

  • 50 The document BCA 30-18-1-2 / 41.86.15 informs in 1933 about the death of a Turkish lieutenant study (...)

58The archive documents indicate a diversification in destination countries during the first decade of the Turkish Republic (including new or less frequent destinations such as Italy, Hungary, Sweden or the USA, exceptional ones such as Japan50 as well as previous centres such as Austria, Belgium, or Switzerland). New political relations enabled new possibilities of cooperation, especially in the case of Russia which after the Bolshevik revolution established increasing collaboration with the Turkish nationalists supporting their struggle for political and economic sovereignty. Aslan (2020) overviews these relations with a special focus on cooperation in education (1920-1938).

59Those who benefited from the state scholarship program later occupied senior governmental, administrative, legislative, and military positions or served the state in other sectors including arts, medicine, education or engineering (Aslan 2016a; Çolak 2013; Gençoğlu 2014; Şişman 2004). Historians also reported several cases of failure, dropouts or even suicides in the host country, although their overall ratio remains low (see also Aslan 2016b for the Republican period).

60The state juggled its budget between funding studies abroad and investing in Western-style schools in its capital. Especially when investing in new schools it suspended the scholarship program and prioritised inviting scholars instead (Gençoğlu 2014: 36, 65; Şişman, 2004: 78, 79). In fact, this program was applied in spite of the economic insecurity and debt default which led to serious difficulties in payments to students (who were already suffering precarious conditions) during the financial turmoil of the 1880s and 1890s (Gençoğlu 2014: 63) and the first years of the Republic (Aslan 2016b: 163).

61We observe that the increasing efforts to better frame this expensive policy reinforced intergovernmental cooperation and vice versa. An example was the Franco-Ottoman project of Mekteb-i Osmani in Paris. Founded on established models (Ecole égyptienne and Ecole arménienne mouradian), this school operated (between 1857-1865) to form Ottoman fellows into military, engineering and administrative officials. It implemented regulations elaborated by the government according to the suggestions of the French Education Ministry and included in its administration senior officials from the latter as well as the Ottoman embassy (Şişman 1986). Further research might shed light on how intergovernmental cooperation experiences contributed to reframing the scholarship policy from the end of the century. It might help to better contextualise the regulatory efforts regarding the eligibility criteria, selection procedures, responsibilities of the funding authority and the receiving party, the latter’s employment in obligatory public service and the elaboration of an inspection system (Gençoğlu 2014; Aslan 2016a respectively for Ottoman and Republican regulations).

62As a concluding remark, we note that Western schools were also opened in Istanbul, and hence proposed an alternative for the elite who sought to study in Western establishments. Among the most prominent examples, Robert College established in 1863 as a private American school, and Lycée de Galatasaray as a hybrid Ottoman-French school in 1868 are still active in Turkey (Georgeon 1994; Gürtunca 2017). Both these foreign and hybrid schools and the state policies invested in the mobility and training of public agents abroad contributed to the re/production of the elites of the Empire and the Republic according to Western intellectual structures.

Turkey’s Participation in International Cooperation, Events and Organisations: The Institutional Spaces of Transnational Knowledge Circulation

63The 19th century marks the formation and institutionalisation of various international networks, events and bodies. Analysing the geographical distribution of international conferences and organisations, Grandjean and van Leeuwen (2019) remark that “this internationalism remained an essentially European phenomenon for a long time”. It is possible to observe the Ottoman contribution to this emerging internationalism from its peripheries. An important research avenue in this regard is Ottoman participation in international and transnational spaces of knowledge and norm production and circulation which took shape at the intersection of European power/knowledge fields starting from the 19th century.

64Our archival observations indicate that the Ottoman government engaged in different forms of intergovernmental cooperation during the 19th century, as confirmed by various studies regarding public health (Chahrour 2007), education (Şişman 1986), infrastructure (Bektas 2000; McMurray 2001), military or governmental (Ortaylı 1981) policies among others. These studies point out the transformation of local structures according to European interests, models and referentials, provoking in most cases a local resistance, especially when the incorporated policies threatened the interests of local elites or intensified existing inequalities. This literature indeed highlights asymmetrical power relations in the elaboration and application of cooperation which often took the form of a non-reciprocal intervention peddled as technical assistance. In some cases, transnational structures were implanted into the Ottoman state, such as concessionary companies (Thobie 1977; Fleet 2015) or the Ottoman public debt administration (Duyun-u umumiye) which controlled and managed Ottoman finances since 1881 after the sovereign debt default and introduced institutional reforms (Birdal 2010). Based on Rodogno’s study (2012) on European “humanitarian interventions”, it might even be argued that the negotiations of international policies among European powers regarding the Ottoman Empire constituted a driving force for multilateralism which gave shape to the emerging European international society (see Djuvara 1914 for concrete examples).

65While occupying a peripheral position within the context of unequal power relations, the Ottoman state was yet recognized as the only non-Christian member of the European society of sovereign states (as affirmed by the Treaty of Paris in 1856) in conformity with its long-term investment in the practice of European international law (Palabiyik 2014). It was also one of the few sovereign states (and for a certain period the only non-European) that participated regularly and actively in international exhibitions, conferences, congresses, and organisations during the 19th century, also hosting various events in its capital.

A marginal insider: Ottoman state’s participation in the productive spaces of transnational knowledge and international policies

66Ottoman archive documents indicate increasing interest in international conferences during the second half of the 19th century regarding international law, maritime regulations and international commerce, public health, communications, and quantification, among others. We propose to study this interest within the framework of international knowledge policies.

  • 51 For example, according to an archive document (BOA HR.SYS. 213/45) dating November 1877, upon the r (...)

67The public health sector provides the first example to discuss the relationship between international knowledge and policy production. The Conseil supérieur de santé de Constantinople (Higher Health Council) established in collaboration with European powers in 1838 was among the first institutions of international cooperation in public health (Chiffoleau 2012). Composed of Ottoman, European and Persian delegates (Yalçınkaya 2019) the Council also employed several European medical experts (Sarıyıldız 1996). This international health organisation served as a space of knowledge and norm production and transmission regarding health policies and as an expert authority in pandemics and quarantine procedures across borders. It became a powerful actor in charge of sanitary policing of the Levant which, safeguarding European interests, imposed measures, especially regarding the commercial circuits in the Straits. Being integrated into the emerging networks of international policymaking (Bourmaud 2013; Chiffoleau 2012); it served as a model for the creation of similar organisations in Tangier, Alexandria, and Tehran through multilateral cooperation51.

  • 52 “Eleven European States and Turkey were represented at the first of the International Sanitary Conf (...)
  • 53 The fifth conference in Washington (1881) included “participation for the first time not only by th (...)

68The Ottoman state participated in the International Sanitary Conferences starting from the first one in 185152 which united mainly European (at least until the fifth one53) medical experts to discuss knowledge on epidemic diseases, negotiate health policies, and formalise international sanitary norms through (draft) conventions and regulations (Howard-Jones 1975). The Ottoman capital hosted the third conference in February 1866. Huber (2006) observes that these conferences “were as much spaces of cooperation as they were arenas where differences and boundaries between disciplines, nations and cultures were defined”. They led to the creation in 1907 of the Office international d’hygiène publique in Paris (incorporated in 1947 into the World Health Organisation). According to Paillette (2012), the Egyptian and Ottoman membership respectively in 1907 and 1911, allowed to consolidate the sphere of influence of this sanitary “European order” in the East and the internationalisation of sanitary law conceived by the Europeans as a matter of “civilisation”.

  • 54 Search for Hilal-i Ahmer and Salib-i Ahmer to see Ottoman archive documents related to Red Cross an (...)

69The Ottoman state followed closely also other international health organisations such as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement receiving reports from the embassies regarding their activities, conferences and international events54. Overall, European powers welcomed Ottoman participation in sanitary internationalism for strategic reasons but did not treat it as an equal member instrumentalizing, in particular, the Constantinople Health Council for exercising control over the health policies in the region according to their economic interests and political visions (Chiffoleau 2012; Paillette 2012).

  • 55 The Ottoman government delegated the minister of Posts and Telegraphs (BOA A.{DVNSNMH.d. 13/88 Sept (...)
  • 56 For conference material see ITU. “International Telegraph Conference (St. Petersburg, 1875).” Pleni (...)
  • 57 After examining the report on the convention, the government gave competent authority to the ambass (...)
  • 58 See for instance the documents regarding Brazil’s, Great Britain’s, and colonies’ participation in (...)

70A second example is the communications sector. The Ottoman state was one of the twenty states who created the International Telegraph Union (ITU 1865). The revision of the International Telegraph Convention, signed also by the Porte (ITU 1868), established the first permanent secretariat responsible for the execution of an international convention (Peters 2014: 496-7). The Ottoman government’s interest in the activities of this IO indicates long-term cooperation. For example, it not only participated55 in the fourth plenipotentiary conference (St. Petersburg, 187556), signed and ratified the resulting convention57; but also followed closely other states’ participation receiving regular reports from the Ottoman embassy in Russia58.

  • 59 The “Treaty Concerning the Formation of a General Postal Union” is accessible on Yale Law School Av (...)

71The Ottoman state also took part in the creation of the General Postal Union in 187459 (became Universal Postal Union in 1878) based on the same organisational principle as the ITU featuring periodic international congresses, regular conferences with member states (postal administrations) and a central office (Peters 2014: 496-7).

  • 60 These bodies were: 1. International Bureau of Weights and Measures 2. International Committee for W (...)

72The last example is in the field of quantification. The Ottoman government was among the seventeen states that signed the Metre Convention produced at the Metre’s Diplomatic Conference (1875, Paris) which united twenty states from Europe and America. This convention established an international system of units and created three bodies for evaluating and making international policies in this field60. The Ottoman state integrated the international prototypes, while the traditional units also remained in use until their abolition in 1933 and full conversion to the International System (IS). Note that the Ottoman state also became a member of the major IOs compiling statistics such as the International Statistical Institute (founded in 1885) and the International Institute of Agriculture (founded in 1905).

73We consider that the knowledge negotiated and produced in these international spaces had direct implications in making societies “legible” (Scott 1998) through the means of standardisation at an international level. The examples discussed above suggest that intergovernmental technical cooperation and state participation in the IOs, complemented with other public policies analysed in this article, reinforced the integration of international knowledge and technologies in the form of social and material networks. These networks promoted a globalisation which was largely defined on the basis of an asymmetrical integration. They hence also provoked protectionist policies against these asymmetries (e.g. Duran 2020).

The unique case of the Ottomans in International Exhibitions: knowledge transactions and visual representations in a segregated world

  • 61 For example: BOA HR.SFR.3. 290/ 42 (May 1883); 290/ 75 (September 1883); 299/ 98 (December 1884).
  • 62 For example: BOA HR.SFR.3. 12 75 (July 1852); 160/ 33 (March 1870); 175/ 51 (April 1871); 192/ 12 ( (...)
  • 63 For example: BOA HR.TH. 382/ 55, 56.
  • 64 For example: BOA HR.SFR.3. 165/ 43 (July 1870); 180/ 62 (April 1872); 285/ 19, 22 (February 1882).

74Various archive documents demonstrate an Ottoman interest in international exhibitions and world fairs, especially in agriculture61, arts and industry62 in London, Paris, New York, or other metropolises since their institutionalisation starting from the 1850s. These documents indicate that these events served as spaces of knowledge and technology transactions63, and highlight the intermediary role of permanent embassies in Ottoman participation in these exchanges64.

75The Ottoman case remains understudied in the literature on the history of world fairs (Geppert et al. 2006), which contributed to the construction of national cultures and identities together with colonial representations (Benedict 1991; Stoklund 1994) and to the legitimation and popularisation of “visions of empire”, presenting “progress as racial dominance and economic growth” (Rydell 2013: 8). Özçeri (2014) discusses the Ottoman participation in these fairs “as a non-Western, Muslim and a non-colonized state” as a unique case. She analyses it as an international “representation policy”, as part of resistance strategies to counter “the established clichés about the Ottoman Empire in the Western world” (2014:115-6). She argues that these commercial centres were also international platforms where representations and cultural identities were constructed dividing the world into two parts: The West exhibiting science, technology and industry versus the East associated with backwardness and exhibited by the Western coloniser in the amusement part. According to Özçeri, the Ottoman state sought equality with the “civilised nations” by representing itself in these platforms both as a leader of the Islamic world and a supra-ethnic, supra-religious national unity and by putting forth its progressive aspects, in particular, its westernised institutions. Further research might help understand what was at stake (both internally and externally) for the state’s public image in the international arena from a comparative perspective from the Empire to the Republic.

Turkish Republic in international spaces of knowledge and norm making

76Following the defeat of the Axis powers, the fate of the remaining Ottoman territories was elaborated and defined by the Sèvres Treaty in 1920, subjecting state sovereignty to international commissions and Allied powers. The resistance struggle resulted in the replacement of this treaty by negotiations concluded in Lausanne, 1923. Like other nation-states formed in this period, Turkish state-making was situated within an emerging international framework. The Lausanne Treaty required the new Turkey to engage, for instance, in certain international conventions and protocols and provided for its participation in certain future conferences (see Section VI of the Lausanne Treaty). The leaders of the new state invested in internationalisation policies in continuity with the Ottoman legacy. They considered participation in international events as occasions to observe competing ideas, knowledge, and policies, take part in norm negotiations and decision-making and gain international visibility in elite spaces of politics and expertise as a modern state.

  • 65 Keyword research using “konferans” and “kongre” reveals that the government sent delegates to at le (...)

77The Turkish government started to follow and participate in international congresses from the beginning and especially after 192565. European cities remained the centre of international activity hosting the majority of international events while an increasing diversification included during the early Republican period other conferences in the United States, Soviet Union, Balkan and mandate states such as Egypt or Syria (see Grandjean, van Leeuwen 2019 for global tendencies). The government controlled international circulations, in particular through passport policies that it monopolised within its borders after certifying the abolition of capitulations by the Lausanne treaty. Another specificity was gender diversification. Van Os (2005: 466) emphasises that the space of international events was a man’s world, especially during the 19th century. It was almost only Ottoman men who circulated in these spaces, while a growing number of women began to participate in international conferences and congresses from the early years of the Republic.

78The participation in IOs also increased significantly in parallel to the growing number of international bodies after the First World War. Turkey appears among the members of 65 intergovernmental and non-governmental IOs out of 654 listed in the Directory of International Organisations of 1936 (Société des Nations 1936). The Turkish government also engaged in various forms of technical cooperation, especially with the League of Nations (e.g. Dogan 2019). Furthermore, intergovernmental cooperation took different forms such as the technical assistance of the Soviets which accompanied a first example of development aid for economic reconstruction and industrialization at the beginning of the 1930s (Dogan 2022).

79The meeting of experts from various countries in international events confronting different ideas, opinions and techniques reinforced the encounter, (re)production and circulation of hegemonic knowledge. Even though these events were punctual, they established and consolidated international networks and communities of knowledge. The Ottoman state contributed to the formation of these first and predominantly European spaces of knowledge transaction and international policy and norm making while claiming a more competitive position in international relations.

80The Republican state was constructed based on this internationalist tradition and benefited from the earlier presence of the Ottoman state in these spaces as “Turkey”. The two states shared not only this common denomination in the international arena but also interest and investment in the emerging internationalism. While both states contested the imperialist tendencies of European internationalism, it was a specificity of the new Turkish state that it was formed as a consequence of the struggle against international power asymmetries which structured Ottoman internationalisation during its last century. This struggle shaped the Republican Government’s foreign policy as highlighted by Liebisch-Gümüş’s study (2019) on the state strategies for a “symmetrical internationalisation” during the interwar period.


81Based on empirical observations and existing literature, this article proposed a reflection and avenues for research on state action aimed at producing, translating, and incorporating knowledge from other states as part of continuous state-making. We proposed to use the term “transact” to highlight the complex agency of Ottoman state strategies through which translation of knowledge from other states simultaneously produced new knowledge transforming both the state and its strategies. The study argued that the Ottoman state was built from the beginning as a hybrid composition by incorporating government technologies, state knowledge, policies and institutions that it encountered through deliberate efforts.

82A major contribution of this study is the typology it proposed, which although being indicative and non-exhaustive, allowed to discuss some common motivations and tendencies in public policy aimed at “transacting” knowledge across the borders. We juxtaposed different Ottoman and Turkish policies and instruments which are often analysed separately in the literature and argued that they were conceived and applied together complementing and assisting each other. These policies sought a competitive position in the field of global power as part of sovereignty struggles and reinforced the internationalisation of the state by knowledge.

83The literature on science and empire (e.g. Tilley 2011; Coen 2018; Steinmetz 2013) emphasises that hegemonic knowledge took shape within the geography, political economy, racial / ethnic hierarchies, and political structures that were particular to specific empires. Further research might provide a better understanding of how specific features of the Ottoman Empire produced specifically Ottoman ways of “transacting knowledge”. As for our study, we highlighted more convergences and hybridisations than particularities. In this regard, Küçük’s (2015) description of Ottoman science as “a creole enterprise” might be applied to the state formation from empire to the nation-state in Turkey.

  • 66 See the definition provided by Ashcroft et al. 2009: 10-1.

84Our inquiry signals the importance of studying the construction of epistemological political categories (sovereignty, borders, foreigners, subjects, rights, migrations, etc.) by the circulation of knowledge between competing macro-actors organised as states. We observed in particular the construction of a hegemonic “West” as a powerful knowledge centre during the 19th century. By focusing on the case of a state which was peripheralized as the polycentric world transformed into a core-periphery order, we observed how resistance strategies based on knowledge policies both contested but also paradoxically contributed to hegemonic power relations. As European powers became the major threat to Ottoman territorial integrity and sovereignty, Ottoman state elites developed an “ambivalent”66 relationship with them based on both hostility and envy, the desire to study what makes them so powerful. Both the idea of a superior West in science and technology, and knowledge transactions through “experts” contributed to Western hegemony and representations of the Ottoman Empire as an “Oriental other” (Said 1979). Western hegemony, of course, did not owe only to knowledge relations, which were entwined with European powers’ continuous investments in military, juridical and institutional technologies. In the Ottoman case, domination relations instrumentalized the Ottoman framework and policies such as capitulations which were formalised into unequal treaties, religious protectorate systems, extraterritoriality, or economic concessions to Western companies. Hence, the instruments and tools of European imperialism were developed within knowledge/power relations and adapted to the Ottoman state’s structures and material conditions as was the case with multilateral arrangements, asymmetrical cooperation programs or transnational institutions such as the Conseil de santé de Constantinople or Ottoman debt administration. The Ottoman institutional framework made it possible for the European elites to occupy key administrative or consulting positions. Whether it was through diplomatic actors, international cooperation, conferences or organisations, or the interstate circulation of experts, public agents or students, the interactions between states tended to normalise Western conceptions of statehood.

85Contrary to the discourse which tended to represent the “West” as a stable and homogenous entity (Hall 1992; Said 1979), it was not imagined as such a fixed entity by the Ottoman state elites who tried to use the competition between Western powers for their advantage. It was one of the reasons why knowledge transaction policies previously focused on Persian, Mughal, Turkish or Arabic states which were Islamic knowledge centres or even distant powers such as China were more and more centralised in Western Europe. This strategy of observing imperial rivalries and competing models contributed to preventing unimodal influence, although the last century of the Ottoman state was marked by a strong French and then German influence in various sectors.

86The capacity and strategy of the state to diversify reference models was increased in the Republican period after the armed struggle against the Allied occupation and the international recognition provided by the Lausanne treaty in 1923. Further research might provide insights into how the strategies of the Kemalist Government for a “symmetrical internationalisation” (Liebisch-Gümüş 2019) also shaped knowledge transaction policies. We observed that the Turkish state assimilated and reinterpreted Ottoman knowledge policies and strategies by applying further measures for controlling circulations and increasing bureaucratic centralisation. Knowledge transactions and translations not only transformed the state elites and the state itself but also structured international society. Future studies might further develop these insights by examining the relationship between international hegemonic knowledge in state governance and the tendency toward increasing “legibility” (Scott 1998) in the transformation of the social order both at the national and international levels.

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Presidency of the Republic of Turkey. Directorate of State Archives.

Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi (BOA) / Ottoman archives

Başbakanlık Cumhuriyet Arşivleri (BCA) / Republican archives

Dışişleri Bakanlığı Türk Diplomatik Arşivleri (TDA) / Diplomatic Archives


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1 I would like to thank the journal referees as well as Özgür Türesay, Aylin de Tapia, Philippe Bourmaud and Aydan Dogan.

2 Presidency of the Republic of Turkey. Directorate of State Archives. “Research Principles in the Archive”.

The most served keywords for this inquiry included rapor, ecnebi, yabancı, beynelmilel, tebaası, mütehassıs, uzman, eksper, danışman, prof, Mösyö, mümessil, sefaret, elçi, maslahat, darülfünun, univ, kongre, konferans, araştırma, inceleme, staj, tahsil, talebe, öğrenci, Avrupa (and the names of different countries and cities). Within Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi (hereafter BOA) most documents found are in Ministry of Foreign Affairs fond, especially HR.SFR. and HR.İD (Hariciye Nezareti Sefaret ve İdare belgeleri)

3 Askeri is an administrative category to distinguish the state agents in public service from the civilian taxpayers (reaya). For more information see Lewis (2012)

4 For an encyclopaedic definition, see: İnalcık, Wansbrough 1971. See also Augusti (2011) and Horowitz (2004) regarding the formalisation of capitulations into unequal trade treaties.

5 For example, Ateş’s (2004) study listing the Ottoman archives on Qajar Iran indicates various type of information gathered on the Persian neighbour (between 1813-1917), which include for example correspondences and reports of Ottoman military officers and diplomats; articles published in Western newspapers on Iran; Iranian publications and maps as well as various translations from Persian into Turkish; commercial and legal documents (on rights of Ottoman subjects residing in Iran, foreign concessions, copies of international treaties involving Iran, etc.); papers, proceedings, correspondences and reports of Boundary Commissions (in charge of fixing the borders between 1843-1914) and Border Conferences; official reports or other documentation regarding Iranian politics and policies, military activities in the border regions, migration movements, or cross border activities of specific political groups; other documents relating to cooperation with Iranian authorities as well as various letters and petitions from Iranian subjects.

6 The study of the Swiss expert, Sauser-Hall (1938) employed by the Republican state in this translation process informs both on the legal reform and the idea of a “Western legal system”.

7 See the interpretative framework proposed by Hagmann and Péclard (2010) to study state-making as negotiation.

8 According to Unat (1968: 14), the first states to maintain a permanent embassy in Constantinople were the Republic of Venice (1454), Poland (1475), Russia (1497), France (1525), Austria (1528) and England (1583).

9 Upon their return, they had an audience with the Sultan, the Grand Vizier and his chief secretary (later the Foreign Affairs Minister) Reisülküttap (Reis Efendi) (Göçek 1987: 16; Yalçınkaya 1994: 399).

10 Venetian ambassadors’ responsibilities included presenting a report (called Relazioni) to the Venetian Senate regarding the conditions of the country visited (Beydilli 2007: 10, 14; Yurdusev 2004: 176, 189).

11 Göçek (1987: 16) notes that being aware of the request of the Marquis de Bonnac to translate and publish the report in France made Mehmed Efendi “doubly careful” in writing his report. A translation of his Sefaretname was published in 1757. Korkut (2003: 496) notes that the original text was taught to French students learning Ottoman-Turkish.

12 See Korkut’s (2003) literature review for examples of Sefaretname translated, published, or reviewed in Europe.

13 See Unat and Baykal’s (1968: 47-218) detailed review of a total of 42 Sefaretname which presents each one with a brief political contextualization including a short biography of the author.

14 Göçek (1987), for example, makes a comparative socio-anthropology of French and Ottoman societies based on the Sefaretname of Mehmet Çelebi (1721). See also the literature review of Korkut (2003).

15 These lists are far from being exhaustive. For Venice for instance 20 missions are listed by Süslü (1981: 248-9) and 31 by Unat and Baykal (1968) while Pedani-Fabris (1996: 187) estimates at least 150 Ottoman envoys just for the period between 1384 and 1645 (war of Candia), noting also that from the middle of the 15th to the 17th centuries Venice served as a centre of diplomatic contacts between the Ottoman and European states.

16 For example, the mission letter of Mehmed Efendi prescribed him “to make an in-depth study of the means of civilization and education and to report on those capable of being applied” (Yerasimos 1999: 71), and Ebubekir Ratib Efendi, who went to Vienna in 1792 as ambassador, reported on the economic and political relations as well as the implications of the French Revolution in Europe (Yeşil 2007).

17 Regarding Phanariots’ integration in the system of Ottoman governance see Philliou (2009).

18 Rossow (1962) defines professionalisation as the process in which “the members of a vocation organise themselves into a loose institutional structure that provides a certain amount of self-government, especially by establishing qualifications for membership and standards of performance, and a modicum at least of insulation from outside social pressures”. According to him the responsibilities and the role of the profession are also delimited and defined in this process.

19 According to Süslü (1981: 234) these grades previously involved “a certain uncertainty”.

20 Reisülküttap who acted de facto as Foreign Minister officially took this title (Hariciye Nazırı) with this reform.

21 For example, Yalçınkaya (1994) analyses the first permanent mission which brought three Muslims from the scribal departments to London who studied French while working and receiving training at the embassy. This historian also examines the documents concerning this first permanent ambassador, his “accounts of events in England” which included the correspondences and reports to the Sublime Porte as well as the extensive report of his chief secretary on British political institutions (with a focus on the parliamentary system and the constitution), foreign relations, army and police as well as the capital city. These reports served according to Yalçınkaya as “first-hand information” and “a valuable source of intelligence” for the Porte in elaborating reforms as well as foreign policy.

22 See especially the case of Phanariots (Philliou 2009). While the state initially aimed to replace Greeks with Muslims after Greek independence, as Ergin (1977) shows, Armenians and Jews were also employed, and even in the most important positions such as the Minister or the chief translator. He also notes that several Greeks considered to be loyal to the state continued to work in the ministry (as well as in other public functions) occupying also important positions as in the example of Aleksandr Kara Teodori who represented the Ottoman state at the Berlin Congress. Furthermore, the first directors of the Tercüme Odası were of non-Muslim origin too (converted to Islam).

23 Embassies were opened in newly formed states especially in Europe and Africa and former states such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Japan, and Mexico. See Şimşir 2006 for a list.

24 Reports might also focus on a single product such as olive oil (Dışişleri Bakanlığı Türk Diplomatik Arşivleri, hereafter TDA, 539_328843/ 320819_104, 2 April 1925).

25 The report of the Gothenburg ambassador on Sweden’s economic life between 1914 and 1924 (TDA 539_219568 /213379_57) is just one example among many, but it indicates the continuity of these activities even during the war and transition.

26 We observe for instance many documents regarding the coordination with the League of Nations Health Organisation (Cemiyet-i Akvam Sıhhiye Teşkilatı or Cemiyet-i Akvam Umur-ı Sıhhiye Şubesi) in Republican Archives and Diplomatic Archives.

27 See for example the report of the Paris embassy in 1877 regarding a financial expert: BOA HR.SFR.3. 251/19.

28 See the exchanges with the London ambassador in 1883: BOA HR.SFR.3. 295/41.

29 See for instance the report of the Vienna embassy in 1856/7: BOA A.AMD. 72/88.

30 For example, when the government decided to call back students to employ them in training state officials in 1845, it would be the embassies who would implement this central decision (BOA A.DVN. 8 / 25).

31 BOA HR.SFR.3. 704/ 36 (25 April 1914).

32 Our study does not include an analysis of this administration which is studied by Birdal (2010) as an institution of reform and transfer, because it was established as a compromise with the creditors in the context of debt crisis and insolvency and not as part of a state policy of knowledge transaction.

33 For his biography and activities in Constantinople see Elmacı (2011) and Güzel (1991).

34 Although they are rare, we also observe experts invited from other continents. See the example of the document (Sadaret Mektubi Kalemi, BOA A.MKT.MVL. 81/5) about inviting in 1856 an expert from India instead of Egypt for fabric production in Baghdad.

35 See for example: BOA HR.SFR.3. 251 / 22 (1877); HR.SFR.3. 478 / 43 (1899).

36 According to this study, in 1838, the Ottoman sultan asked the Paris ambassador (Ahmet Fethi Pasha) for two medical experts for the new Medicine School (Mekteb-i Tıbbiye), who in his way to Paris transmitted this request to the Austrian prime minister. Ten days later the Vienna ambassador (Mehmet Rıfat) wrote to the Ottoman Foreign Ministry suggesting two doctors based on their qualifications and diplomas. He also proposed a draft contract that he prepared after negotiating with the Austrian authorities, which included dispositions to allow replacing the experts if they were found unsuitable for the task noting that, even though they received a medical education and diplomas, what counted was their practical knowledge and experience. According to his letter, the Vienna ambassador inspected and verified the expertise of these doctors, he personally interviewed them regarding their education, diplomas and scientific opinion, the embassy doctors also asked questions and gave their opinion about their scientific discussion and expertise (Öztürk, Karasu 2014: 126-7).

37 For instance, the ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs (especially the Immigration Office) took certain measures in February 1918 aimed at avoiding the problems in visa and passport controls for the experts and officers invited from ally states (BOA HR.İD. 108 / 97)

38 Several cases in the Republican archives show that Turkish citizens who worked for another state without asking for permission were denationalised.

39 A first example might be the regulation in 1924 on contracts with European experts to work longer than one year BCA 30-10-0-0 / 201-374-1 (July 1924).

40 See for example: BCA 30-18-1-2 / 34-16-15 (18.03.1933) and 40-73-13 (17.10.1933).

41 E.g. BCA 30-18-1-1 / 25-39-11 (June 1927).

42 Commonly designated as prestige, authority or recognition, the concept of symbolic capital refers to resources which are “unrecognized as capital and recognized as legitimate competence, as authority exerting an effect of (mis)recognition” (Bourdieu 1986: 18).

43 Analysing the writings of geographers, sea captains, travellers, cartographers among other state agents, Emiralioğlu (2014: 8-9) shows their role in the production and assimilation of geographical as well as social and political information categorising and mapping the world for the state who made use of it not only for its expansionist ambitions but also self-representations. Her study also emphasises how the Ottomans contributed to the production and circulation of extraterritorial knowledge, taking part in the “age of exploration”.

44 BOA HR.İD. 183/ 64 (1915).

45 E.g. BCA 30-18-1-1 / 27.71.11 (December 1927).

46 E.g. BCA 30-18-1-2 / 3.29.15 (May 1929).

47 BCA 30-18-1-1 / 10.40.15 (August 1924).

48 The observations of Esad Bey, the director of the Mekteb-i Osmani from a report dating 1864 are cited and examined by Şişman (1986: 113-4).

49 According to Gençoğlu’s study (2014: 37) covering the reign of Abdülhamid II (1876-1909), 191 Ottomans studied in Germany against 196 in France, followed by Switzerland (13), England, Russia, and Austria (5 for each). His findings show that these students were sent mostly for military and medical studies.

50 The document BCA 30-18-1-2 / 41.86.15 informs in 1933 about the death of a Turkish lieutenant studying in Japan.

51 For example, according to an archive document (BOA HR.SYS. 213/45) dating November 1877, upon the request of the Persian government to the Austrian government indicating the necessity for the establishment of an international health organisation in Tehran as that of Constantinople and Alexandria, the Austrian government wrote to the Ottoman government asking for their opinion.

52 “Eleven European States and Turkey were represented at the first of the International Sanitary Conferences”, writes Howard-Jones (1975: 12) noting that four of them composed Italy (the remaining were Austria, France, Great Britain, Greece, Portugal, Russia, Spain).

53 The fifth conference in Washington (1881) included “participation for the first time not only by the USA but also by seven Latin American countries, as well as Haiti, Hawaii, China, Japan, and Liberia” (Howard-Jones 1975: 43).

54 Search for Hilal-i Ahmer and Salib-i Ahmer to see Ottoman archive documents related to Red Cross and Red Crescent. In general terms, Sıhhiye Konferansı or Karantina Kongresi would provide documents for conferences; Sağlık Sergisi for exhibitions and Beynelmilel Sağlık with Teşkilatı or Heyeti for international commissions and organisations in health sector.

55 The Ottoman government delegated the minister of Posts and Telegraphs (BOA A.{DVNSNMH.d. 13/88 September 1875).

56 For conference material see ITU. “International Telegraph Conference (St. Petersburg, 1875).” Plenipotentiary Conferences

57 After examining the report on the convention, the government gave competent authority to the ambassador Kamil Bey to sign the convention (BOA HR.SFR.1 57/ 54, 58), then sent the firman regarding its ratification to the embassy (BOA HR.SFR.1.180/ 134, January 1876).

58 See for instance the documents regarding Brazil’s, Great Britain’s, and colonies’ participation in the convention: BOA HR.SFR.1. 61/ 21, 34, 51, 72; HR.SFR.1. 62/ 44; HR.SFR.3. 233/ 22; HR.SFR.1. 63/ 100).

59 The “Treaty Concerning the Formation of a General Postal Union” is accessible on Yale Law School Avalon Project:

60 These bodies were: 1. International Bureau of Weights and Measures 2. International Committee for Weights and Measures 3. General Conference on Weights and Measures. Convention du Mètre et Règlement Annexe, 1875, Accessible on the website of the Bureau international des poids et mesures :

61 For example: BOA HR.SFR.3. 290/ 42 (May 1883); 290/ 75 (September 1883); 299/ 98 (December 1884).

62 For example: BOA HR.SFR.3. 12 75 (July 1852); 160/ 33 (March 1870); 175/ 51 (April 1871); 192/ 12 (March 1873).

63 For example: BOA HR.TH. 382/ 55, 56.

64 For example: BOA HR.SFR.3. 165/ 43 (July 1870); 180/ 62 (April 1872); 285/ 19, 22 (February 1882).

65 Keyword research using “konferans” and “kongre” reveals that the government sent delegates to at least five international meetings in 1923, nine in 1924, thirteen in 1925, eleven in 1926 and twenty-four in 1927.

66 See the definition provided by Ashcroft et al. 2009: 10-1.

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Electronic reference

Aykiz Dogan, Knowledge Transaction and State Making from Ottoman Empire to the Turkish RepublicEuropean Journal of Turkish Studies [Online], 32 | 2021, Online since 19 July 2022, connection on 02 March 2024. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Aykiz Dogan

UMR Dév&Soc, IEDES, Université Paris-1 and

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The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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