The book places Galata, the former Genoese colony and European port of Istanbul at the heart of global maritime networks of trade between the Black Sea and Mediterranean ports as well as the caravan trade between Asia and Europe in the early modern period. It thus tackles the rich and growing historiography on Mediterranean ports and places the Ottoman Empire and its port of Galata within it.
Tracing the history of Galata to the late medieval period, I emphasize continuity and change after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453. I examine the urban and legal institutions of trade such as commercial and diplomatic treaties (ahdnames/capitulations) signed between Ottoman rulers, the Italian city- states and European allies and their role in the promotion of international trade, Ottoman-European encounters and dispute resolution. I argue that the earlier treaties were bilateral and that the Ottoman state practiced a combination of free trade and protectionist polices in promoting both local and international traders. As a result of these treaties and Ottoman policies, Galata/Pera emerged as an important commercial as well as diplomatic hub, catering to international as well as domestic trade.
Based on a study of Islamic court records, petitions submitted to the imperial council and imperial orders as well as travelogues, I study the ebb and flow of trade, its impact on the everyday life of the inhabitants of Galata and Ottoman- European encounters in the market place, the courts as well as taverns and coffeehouses. I focus on trade between Galata and Marseille and the role of French traders in international as well as domestic trade and as informal bankers. I show that wars, global competition for trade routes and raw materials, as well as unfavorable treaties could undermine economic life, leading to tensions, violence as well as state led policies against foreigners in Galata in the late eighteenth century.