Was 'modernity' in the Middle East merely imported piecemeal from the West? Did Ottoman society really consist of islands of sophistication in a sea of tribal conservatism, as has so often been claimed? In this groundbreaking new book, Martha Mundy and Richard Saumarez Smith draw on over a decade of primary source research to argue that, contrary to such stereotypes, a distinctively Ottoman process of modernisation was achieved by the end of the nineteenth century with great social consequences for all who lived through it. Modernisation touched women as intimately as men: the authors' careful work explores the impact of Ottoman legal reforms, such as granting women equal rights to land. Mundy and Saumarez Smith have painstakingly recreated a picture of such processes through both new archival material and the testimony of surviving witnesses to the period. This book will not only affect the way we look at Ottoman society, it will change our understanding of the relationship between East, West and modernity.
Martha Mundy is a Reader in Anthropology at the London School of Economics. She is the author of 'Domestic Government: Kinship, Community and Polity in North Yemen' (IB Tauris, 1995). Richard Saumarez Smith is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the American University of Beirut.