JaNet: Janissary Networks

Janissaries in Ottoman Port-Cities: Muslim Financial and Political Networks in the Early Modern Mediterranean

European Research Council Starting Grant
Duration: February 1, 2020 - January 31, 2025
Hosted by: Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas, Greece


JaNet investigates the economic and sociopolitical role of the Janissaries in the 18th and early 19th centuries through their examination as a complex of interconnected networks in the Mediterranean. By studying the Janissary corps, the project brings forward a radically new historical analysis concerning, on the one hand, the role of Muslims in the Ottoman and wider Mediterranean commercial economy – a role largely ignored by the bibliography – and, on the other, the processes that led to the creation of diasporas and the dissemination of ideas among various Muslim communities in the region.


JaNet’s objectives are to:
a. examine, in a comparative perspective and through an analysis based on the evolution of the Janissary corps, a significant number of port-cities in North Africa, Egypt, Syria, the Aegean, Anatolia, the Danube, the Adriatic, and the Black Sea as a unified space of multiple interconnections and diasporic formation for Ottoman Muslims;
b. explore the processes that led to the creation of extended commercial networks and credit markets among Muslim populations at a time of increasing monetization for the Ottoman economy and before the establishment of a central Ottoman banking system;
c. compare between the parallel developments of a number of Western European and Ottoman Islamic financial institutions in the common Mediterranean framework, and study the interaction that such developments entailed; and
d. analyze the reciprocal political relationship established between the Janissary corps’ central and peripheral structures, as opposed to the dominant in the bibliography ‘one-way’ Istanbul-oriented approach.

Innovation and Impact

The project brings forward an innovative approach in many ways, not the least of which being that it will produce a work of synthesis that modern research lacks: Through the use of a wide variety of archival sources, JaNet aims at creating an innovative entanglement of military, social, political, and economic history which can literally change our current perception of the early modern Mediterranean. JaNet aspires to produce an academic output that will have great impact on the historiography of a series of countries which comprise a large part of the present-day Mediterranean space. By writing Ottoman political and economic history mainly from a provincial viewpoint, and by introducing a comparative frame of reference based on the examination of an institution present in most of the Empire’s peripheral administrative structures, the project opens the way for the inclusion of even larger parts of the imperial space in relevant future studies. Last but not least, the project aspires to have an impact on the contemporary public discourse on religious co-existence in the Mediterranean region. Especially today, at a time when religious differences and intolerance are accentuated and promoted in politics and public debates, a balanced and unbiased historical approach to the Muslim presence in the area becomes extremely topical. It holds the key for understanding the trajectory of areas and populations of different religions that have been culturally shaped throughout the ages by continuous interaction, a fact which tends to be forgotten in times of conflict


This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 849911)