In the land-based agrarian world of early modern Ottoman Egypt, animal wealth, labor, and movement were the bases of social and economic life. Animals were the trucks, motors, cranes, heaters, and gas stations of this early modern society. Interspecies relations between humans and various classes of animals were, however, radically altered at the end of the 18th century by a combination of climatic, epidemiological, political, and economic processes. The new human-animal world that resulted was one in which livestock were no longer a central pillar of economic, social, and political life in Ottoman Egypt. This diminished role of animals led, in turn, to a radical restructuring of the rural world as it transitioned away from animal labor, energy, and motor power. Thus, as Egypt moved from being the most lucrative province of the Ottoman Empire to a 19th-century centralizing state, human-animal relations changed more fundamentally between 1770 and 1830 than they had for milennia before that. This talk traces this change at the turn of the 19th century to understand the political, social, ecological, and economic history of the Ottoman Empire through one of the most basic of all human relationships -- those with other animals.
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