New Book: The Women Who Built the Ottoman World

The Women who Built the Ottoman World: Female Patronage and the Architectural Legacy of Gulnus Sultan (Library of Ottoman Studies) 

At the beginning of the 18th Century, the Ottoman Empire remained the grandest and most powerful of Middle Eastern Empires – it was also the ‘Golden Age’ of Ottoman patronage. One hitherto overlooked aspect of the empire’s remarkable cultural legacy was the role of powerful women – often the head of the harem, or wives or mothers of Sultans. These educated and discerning patrons left a great array of buildings across the Ottoman lands; opulent, lavish and powerful palaces and mausoleums, but also essential works for ordinary citizens, such as bridges and waterworks. Muzaffer Ozgules here uses new primary scholarship and archaeological evidence to reveal the stories of these Imperial builders. Gulnus Sultan for example, the head of the imperial harem under Mehmed IV and mother to his sons, was often pictured on horseback, and travelled widely across the Middle East commissioning architects and craftsmen as she went. Her buildings were personal projects designed to showcase Ottoman power and they were built from Constantinople to Mecca, from modern-day Ukraine to Algeria. Ozgules seeks to re-establish the importance of some of these buildings, since lost, and traces the history of those that remain. The Women Who Built the Ottoman World is a valuable contribution to the architectural history of the Ottoman Empire, and to the growing history of the women within it.

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