The Animal in Ottoman Egypt


This book tells the story of Ottoman Egypt’s political, social, economic, and environmental transformations between 1517 and 1882 through the history of human-animal relations. Its main contention is that changing relationships between humans and animals were central to the transformation of Egypt from an early modern society to a nineteenth-century centralizing state. Egypt in this period moved from being an early modern world characterized primarily by intense human-animal interactions to one in which this relationship was no longer constitutive of commercial and social life. The results were a fundamental reordering of political, economic, and ecological power. This book thus explains one of the most important historical transitions of the last 500 years through the history of changes to one of the most consequential of human relationships—those with animals. Three classes of animals take center stage: livestock, dogs, and charismatic megafauna. The history of human relations with each group illuminates different aspects of Ottoman Egypt’s transformations. Livestock explain changes in the nature of rural labor; dogs elucidate changes in understandings of urban sanitation, health, and the human body; and charismatic megafauna index changes in global trade and economic modes of exchange. As nearly all early modern agrarian societies between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries experienced some form of intense transformation involving the commercialization and modernization of their economies, the Egyptian example thus offers a robust template for understanding how changes in human-animal relations impacted the global transition of early modern societies to more modern forms of governance, economy, and society.

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