#035 – Ottoman Port Cities of the Modern Mediterranean

with Malte Fuhrmann

hosted by Andreas Guidi and Zeynep Ertugrul for a joint release with Ottoman History Podcast

(Steamers, row and sailing boats on the Istanbul Golden Horn, ca. 1890. Courtesy of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Istanbul)


At the turn of the twentieth century, Ottoman port cities of the Eastern Mediterranean were sites of vibrant cultural encounters. While infrastructural innovations at docks and quays reshaped the urban waterfront, the inhabitants of Izmir, Istanbul, and Salonica engaged with new forms of entertainment arriving from Europe. Operas, balls, and beerhouses changed the way people mingled and interpreted coexistence and diversity in their urban environment. Migrants from Europe and from the hinterlands of major port cities created an original form of Ottoman Mediterranean modernity. This cosmopolitan urban culture was alluring and festive but also had its discontents, who denounced it as decadent and servile to European imperialism. Exploring the everyday life of late Ottoman port cities reveals an effervescent lapse of time in which notions such as modernity, Europe, empire, and nation could be experienced in manifold ways, before the major conflicts of the twentieth century gave a fatal blow to Mediterranean urban diversity.



Malte Fuhrmann is a research fellow at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin specializing in the history of the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey, and Southeast Europe. Besides Port Cities of the Eastern Mediterranean: Urban Culture in the Eastern Mediterranean (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2020) he has published numerous articles, edited volumes, and monographs, including Konstantinopel – Istanbul. Stadt der Sultane und Rebellen (Constantinople – Istanbul: City of Sultans and Rebels), Frankfurt (M.): Fischer 2019, and The City in the Ottoman Empire: Migration and the Making of Urban Modernity, London: Routledge 2011, a volume edited together with Ulrike Freitag, Nora Lafi, Florian Riedler. Malte is currently working on a comparison of development discourse in modern Bulgaria and Turkey.




New book by Malte Fuhrmann examines the history of Eastern Mediterranean port cities


To cite this episode: Malte Fuhrmann, Zeynep Ertugrul, Andreas Guidi (2021): Ottoman Port Cities of the Modern Mediterranean. The Southeast Passage #035, http://thesoutheastpassage.com/fuhrmann-ottoman-port-cities-modern-mediterranean


Sounds effects:

A quiet seaside seagulls distant“,  “Waves at the edge of Bosphorus”, “Bbc News Sound Effects Tape (Old) – boat – ships sirens”, “A night in Athens”.



Turku: “Bir demet Yasemen”

Maria Papagika: “Ti se melei esenane”

Further reading:

Anastassiadou, Meropi, Salonique 1830–1912: Une ville ottomane à l’âge des réformes (Leiden: Brill, 1997).

Eldem, Edhem; Daniel Goffmann, and Bruce Alan Masters (eds.),The Ottoman City between East and West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

Georgelin, Hervé, La fin de Smyrne: Du cosmopolitisme aux nationalismes (Paris: CNRS, 2005).

Eren, Ercan, Geçmişten Günümüze Anadolu’da Bira (Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı, 2005).

Mestyan, Adam, Arab Patriotism: The Ideology and Culture of Power in Late Ottoman Egypt (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017).

Kaynar, Erdal, “Les jeunes Turques et l’Occident, histoire d’une deception programmée,” in François Georgeon (ed.), ‘L’ivresse de la liberté’: La revolution de 1908 dans l’Empire Ottoman (Paris: Peeters, 2012), 27–65.

Kechriotis, Vangelis, “Civilization and Order: Middle-Class Morality among the Greek-Orthodox in Smyrna/Izmir at the End of the Ottoman Empire,” in Andreas Lyberatos (ed.), Social Transformation and Mass Mobilization in the Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean Cities 1900–1923 (Heraklion: Panepistimio Kritis, 2013), 115–132.

Mishra, Pankaj, Age of Anger: A History of the Present (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, (2017).

Prange, Martine, “Cosmopolitan Roads to Culture and the Festival Road of Humanity,” Ethical Perspectives 14 (3/2007), 269–286.

Schmitt, Oliver Jens, Levantiner: Lebenswelten und Identitäten einer ethnokonfessionellen Gruppe im osmanischen Reich im “langen 19. Jahrhundert” (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2005).

Smyrnelis, Marie-Carmen, Une société hors de soi: Identités et relations sociales à Smyrne aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles (Paris: Peeters, 2005).


(Lighter boats, porters, and passersby in front of the Izmir Customs House, ca. 1890. Courtesy of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Istanbul)


(An 1898 postcard of Salonica printed by the city’s German association, featuring the modern quays. Courtesy of Malte Fuhrmann)

The Southeast Passage
The Southeast Passage
#035 - Ottoman Port Cities of the Modern Mediterranean