The history of Ottoman political thought remains a highly needed desideratum for Ottoman studies. Although there have been numerous articles about individual political writers or general overviews of the major works, there is still a need of a comprehensive history. Such an undertaking would have to encompass not only the great landmarks of this field, but also lesser-known works that, albeit not path-breaking or innovating in themselves, formed the context and background of the transformations and reforms of the political praxis throughout the Ottoman centuries.
The existing works on the history of Ottoman political thought have not so far attained the length and scope of a monograph. Furthermore, older overviews, until perhaps the beginnings of the 2000s, share two disadvantages. The first is that they restrain themselves only to ‘the major thinkers’. Therefore they ignored the numerous others that made the background against which innovation was evident, or, in the contrary, the basement upon which innovation was built. The second disadvantage might be attributed to a sort of ‘inner Orientalism’: Oriental studies of the first half of the twentieth century emphasized the innovative and philosophical merits of the great medieval thinkers of the Near East, such as al-Farabi, al-Gazali or Ibn Khaldun. The worth of Ottoman political works was usually measured against the degree of innovative spirit in comparison to medieval predecessors, rather than the way they responded to actual problems of the Ottoman realities. The traditional image of the “decline” of the Empire after the mid-sixteenth century, virtually unchallenged until the early 1990s, played no small a role in the formation of this view.