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Book Talk with Will Smiley-From Slaves to Prisoners of War: The Ottoman Empire, Russia, and International Law

February 4 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Please join the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Initiative (OTS-NYU) on Monday, February 4th for a book talk with Will Smiley, entitled, “From Slaves to Prisoners of War: The Ottoman Empire, Russia, and International Law”.

5:00pm – 7:00pm

Richard Ettinghausen Library, 255 Sullivan St.


Prof. Yanni Kotsonis and Dr. Karin Loevy

The Ottoman-Russian wars of the eighteenth century reshaped the map of Eurasia and the Middle East, but they also birthed a novel concept–the prisoner of war. For centuries, hundreds of thousands of captives, civilians and soldiers alike, crossed the legal and social boundaries of these empires, destined for either ransom or enslavement. But in the eighteenth century, the Ottoman state and its Russian rival, through conflict and diplomacy, worked out a new system of regional international law. Ransom was abolished; soldiers became prisoners of war; and some slaves gained new paths to release, while others were left entirely unprotected. These rules delineated sovereignty, redefined individuals’ relationships to states, and prioritized political identity over economic value. In the process, the Ottomans marked out a parallel, non-Western path toward elements of modern international law. Yet this was not a story of European imposition or imitation-the Ottomans acted for their own reasons, maintaining their commitment to Islamic law. For a time even European empires played by these rules, until they were subsumed into the codified global law of war in the late nineteenth century. This story offers new perspectives on the histories of the Ottoman and Russian Empires, of slavery, and of international law.

Will Smiley is an Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of New Hampshire. He is a historian of the Middle East and of international and Islamic law, with a particular interest in the Ottoman Empire.

Karin Loevy is the manager of the JSD Program at NYU School of Law.

Yanni Kotsonis is Professor of History & Russian and Slavic Studies at NYU.

Co-Sponsors: Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia, and NYU Law School




Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies
50 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012 United States
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