Anatolian Famine and the Missionaries
Abstract: Between 1873-75, a severe famine struck a wide region in central Anatolia, killing at least 150,000 lives. During the disaster, the American Protestant missionaries, already settled in Anatolia since the early decades of the nineteenth century, created effective networks of charity and saved many lives distributing relief and feeding thousands of peasants and townsmen. They were both observers and actors in Anatolia during the famine years and the rest of the late nineteenth century. They were important mediators between the people and the government in cities, smaller towns and villages. Their hands reached many places that the government could not. They witnessed many events about which the imperial government in Istanbul could have information only if it had been reported by the provincial governors. They competed with the Ottoman government in the provision of charity.
Whatever the exaggerated notions their accounts may include – regarding the “corrupt” state of the Ottoman government, or the religion of Islam and the “ignorant” subjects of the empire in general – they filled the gaps left by the Ottoman administrative sources concerning the real effects of famine in the countryside and smaller towns. Relying on misisonary accounts, this article investigates how famine weighed on the local population, how the missionaries interpreted the disaster and how they competed for religious influence in the region through charity.
Keywords: Ottoman Empire, Anatolia, Asia Minor, Social and Cultural History, 19th Century, Famine, Missionaries, Charity.
Biography author: Özge Ertem received her BA degree at the department of Political Science and International Relations at Marmara University in Istanbul, Turkey. She studied her master at the Ataturk Institute for Modern Turkish History at Bogazici University where she also taught for one year. She started her Ph.D.-research in 2007 at the department of History and Civilization at European University Institute in Florence. Currently she is preparing to submit her dissertation which explores social and cultural history of two famines in late-Ottoman Anatolia.
Affiliations: Özge Ertem, Ph.D.-candidate, Department of History and Civilization, European University Institute, Florence - Italy.
Ertem, Özge (2012), 'Sick Men of Asia Minor in an Ailing Empire: Famine, Villagers and Government in Missionary Accounts (1873-75)', in: International Review of Turkish Studies, Spring 2012, Volume: 2, Issue: 1, pages: 72-94.