Fuat Köprülü’s Defining Contribution To Turkology

Paul Dumont, “The Türk Yurdu Review and the Muslims of the Russian Empire, 1911-1914”, Cahiers du monde russe et russe, volume 15, No. 3-4, 1974:

“Fuat Köprülü (1890-1966) was descended from the famous Köprülü family, famous in Ottoman history because of the many viziers she had given to the ruling dynasty, at the time of the foundation of Türk Yurdu. barely twenty-two years old, but he already had brilliant intellectual qualities, he was to have a very good academic career, and from 1935 he was a politician.He was responsible for a number of important works in a variety of fields: Turkology ,
history, folklore. These include his Parisian lectures on “The Origins of the Ottoman Empire” (1935) and his History of Turkish Literature (Türk edebiyatı tarihi), Istanbul, 1926. “(317, note 12)
 Robert Mantran, “The Orientation of Historical Studies in Turkey”, Historical Review, 89th year, Volume 234, 1965:

“While Turkish historians before 1914 made a significant contribution to the knowledge of the history of their country, their work generally consisted of limited but numerous studies and uncritical editing of texts. of the leading Ottoman chroniclers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the need for deeper inquiry into the history of the Ottoman Empire became apparent, and thus the first publications of archival Essentially imperial regulations, however, did not go beyond outright publication and, out of scruple or modesty, were careful not to comment on them and to try to construct a story that would emerge little of the traditional narrative of events.
It was after 1923, with the impulse given to historical research by Atatürk, that a new movement was taking shape: going beyond Ottoman history to discover more deeply the history of the Turks and Turkey, especially Seljuk of Asia Minor and post-Seljuk dynasties.

This movement did not go without some excess of nationalism, but these excesses were quickly corrected. In addition, more attention was given to data from ancillary sciences such as epigraphy and archeology; Literary works, and especially popular literature, were also used. Efforts were made to discover new, unpublished texts. It is more particularly to Mehmed Fuad Köprülü that we owe this renewal: undisputed master of turcology, not only he encourages the historical studies, but he trains students and gives the example; the numerous articles and works which he published between 1923 and 1945 are as many stones brought to the construction of this imposing and modern edifice that must be the history of the Turks.

Thanks to him, one realizes that the sources are infinitely more varied and vast than one suspected it thus draws the attention on the popular literature, on the importance of the documents of the pious foundations (vakīflar), on the onomastic, on the historical sources of the neighboring countries of Turkey. With Köprülü, a documented, critical, comparative history has emerged, shedding light not only on political issues, but also on human, religious, economic and social issues.
Between the two wars, the example given by Mr. F. Köprülü was followed more or less happily by historians like Ahmed Refik and Ismail Hakki Uzunçarşīlī. However, we can say that it is with the next generation, the one that appears in 1945, that the new Turkish historical school shows its value. To the taste of research, inspired to his students by Köprülü, is added the acquisition of a method that many of them went to perfect in Europe. If, after 1945, works by Ottoman or Seljuk chroniclers are still published, they are now critical studies that can be used without hesitation; more and more, one devotes oneself to the research and the publication of documents of archives, of vakfiyès (acts of the pious foundations) which serve as the base for serious studies: it is no longer a matter of telling, of describing, but to try to explain. This is valid first of all for the Seljuk period on which, in addition to Köprülü’s work, the publication of documents and vakfiyes by Osman Turan, Fikret Işiltan, Mehmed Zeki Oral and others bring new and valuable details concerning the religious life. social and economic. This is even more valid for the Ottoman period: Ömer Luffi Barkan owes the publication of archival material of the highest interest concerning both the agrarian economy and the urban economy. Ö. L. Barkan that he did not just publish these documents: he was able, in articles of great value, to begin the study of the economic and social problems of the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, thus renewing the history of this empire which had been seen for too long under the aspect presented by J. von Hammer in the first half of the nineteenth century. Following the example given by Ö. L. Barkan, the post-war Turkish historians, devoted themselves to this study of archival documents, a study viewed from the angle of Ottoman institutions and economic and social problems, such as the works of Mehmed Tayyib Gökbilgin. , Halil Inalcīk, Mustafa Akdağ, Lûtfi Güçer, which cover the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and that we can not ignore if we now want to write the history of that time. Using also archival documents, but sometimes less critically, Ismail Hakki Uzunçarşīlī published several books about the Ottoman Empire Institutions the central government, the palace, the navy, the army (his work on the Janissaries and the other Ottoman military corps is particularly documented) “(316-318)
At the end of this quick glance, we can say that historical studies in Turkey have come out of the phase of stammering and polygraphy: the works published over the past twenty years by Turkish historians constitute undeniable proof of a mature science. It is regrettable that the obstacle of language reduces their audience, because these Turkish historians are little known, despite their merits. More than Westerners, they are compelled to practice European languages ​​in addition to Turkish, Arabic and Persian, indispensable bases of historical studies in Turkey.

If they have a historical tradition, it had to be remodeled because it did not generate progress; joined with Western historical methods, it allows them to bring us works that often would be celebrated in Europe if they were written in a Western language.

The impetus given by Mr Köprülü has borne fruit, still young perhaps, but which will only be able to mature as new generations of historians emerge, and there are currently some who give great promise. If the effort is still dispersed, if success has not always answered the hopes, we must not disregard or neglect the works of Turkish historians. Perhaps it would be necessary, for true development to appear, that Westerners should take a closer look at the history of a country which they have too long ignored or even despised at one time; it is not the elements of research that are missing, and recent or ongoing work in Turkey is there to show us that the fund is rich and that it is enough to exploit it … “(322)

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