Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, was the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. The Bosphorus straits divides the city into a part that sits on the European continent, and a larger part on the continent of Asia. The militarily and economically strategic position of the city, on the western portion of the Silk Road, and on the shipping route between the Aegean and Black Seas, has kept it cosmopolitan and prosperous since its foundation 660 BCE, when it was called Byzantium. In 330 it became Constantinople, the capital of the Roman Empire, named for Emperor Constantine the Great. The Ottomans conquered the city in 1453/857 AH and renamed the city Istanbul. It served as their capital until Ankara became the capital of the modern nation of Turkey.
Bagce, Samet. '"English abstract of 'Life in Istanbul of Yore'". Translated by Aysu Dinçer. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi. 42. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Rıza, Ali (et al.). Eski Zamanlarda İstanbul Hayatı. İstanbul: Kitabevi, 2001, 2nd ed., 474pp.
Life in Istanbul of Yore
Eski Zamanlarda İstanbul Hayatı
The book has been prepared for publication by Ali Şükrü Çoruk in the Latin alphabet, as the original articles were written before 1929, when the Arabic script was still in use for writing Turkish. It also, includes articles by Ali Birinci, formerly published in İstanbul Araştırmaları (Vol. 1, Spring 1997, pp.87-94) and Tarihin Gölgesinde (2001, pp.101-108), which are gathered in a section entitled “Correspondent of Istanbul, Ali Rıza Bey the Minister of Fisheries”.
After having worked in various government posts, Ali Rıza Bey (1842-1928) was assigned as the Imperial Minister of Fisheries in October 1883, Minister of Salt Works and Fisheries in 1884, and Imperial Minister of Public Debts in March 1907. After the proclamation of the Second Constitution, he was suspended in 1909 and retired in January 1910.
The book is a compilation of articles published by Ali Rıza Bey between 1919-1925 in various newspapers and journals of the time. Çoruk sums up his purpose in writing the articles as “a wish to inform the new generation about customs and traditions which have been forgotten with the passage of time; ways of life in palaces and mansions, love affairs of famous people, hashish addicts, beggars, firemen, ways of entertainment, in short, all that relates to old Istanbul”. Written in a flowing and colourful language, this compilation constitutes one of the most comprehensive and important studies of the author, as it includes invaluable observations, anecdotes and analyses on all aspects of old Istanbul’s social and daily life. The author has made an effort to present his memories and observations in detail and they are well-supported by other sources. However, there are significant overlaps and repetitions in the book, since the individual articles were published separately on various occasions.
The book fills a gap and serves as an important primary source, as well as presenting an interesting attitude towards historical writing. However, it does have certain shortcomings: the original articles in Ottoman script have not been published, which is a significant problem, as it is not possible to check the accuracy of the transcription. Additionally, the introduction does not reveal the identity of the person who undertook the transcription, or the methods that were followed. Also, orthographical rules have not been used consistently throughout the book.