Millet Ktb., Tarih, no. 428
Şânî-zâde's introduction on the rules of historiography is found separetely in Topkapı Sarayi Ktb., Hazine, no. 1658
Yılmazer, Z. (ed.), Şâni-zâde Mehmed ‘Atâ’ullah Efendi: Şânî-zâde târîhi [Osmanlı tarihi (1223-1237 / 1808-1821)], Istanbul 2008
The introduction of Şani-zâde’s work is a long essay on historiography (Y14-24; copied by Cevdet Paşa, vol. XI app. 222-229), defined as the faithful narration of real events. He follows the old distinction between “sacred history”, on which he only devotes a sentence, and “general histories” (Y15: tevârîh-i ‘âmme) that record the deeds of “kings and states… tribes and nations” (mülûk ü düvel… akvâm u milel). Şani-zâde notes that most of the early events are full of wonders (havârık), because the truth gets distorted as the time distance increases, citing as an example Romulus’ being described as a son of “the planet Mars”. The historian must seek undeniable proofs; this task may get difficult in cases of peoples without writing systems (such as “the English and German tribes in the times of the Cesars, the present-time Tatars or the two-thirds of Africa, or the states of Peru, Mexico or Tlaxcala in America”: Y16). Şani-zâde seems here well-informed on European archeological studies, since he mentions the Parian Chronicle and the oldness of the Chinese and Indian civilizations. A large part of this introduction seems to be translated from European sources (for instance, when Şani-zâde states that the Moghol history is only known through Chinese texts: Y18), with scattered insertions from Islamic ones (as when he explains that we have no clue on the building of the Pyramids, adding that “as they say” Lot, Şu’ayb or İdris built them: Y19). Şani-zâde stresses further the need for the historian to check his sources, especially when an event is shown to surpass human abilities or when a speech is allegedly rendered word by word.
In the rest of his chronicle, Şani-zâde inserts various pieces of advice: for instance, when speaking of Selim III’s deposition (Y33-42), he warns against the difficulty of “imposing new customs in an old village and raising thus the opposition of the common people”. No matter how close to the right course and how preferable to the old law (Y37: töre-i kadîmeye her ne mertebede müreccah u fa’ik olsa da) a new regulation may be, there will always be ignorant ones who will revolt against it, preferring their own personal benefit to the common good. Every tribe or group has its own natural customs and traditions; those who are not trained in arms and military crafts, who do not know of the virtues of patriotism and national zeal (Y38: hubb-ı vatan ve gayret-i milliyyeden ‘âtıl), who are accustomed to idleness, showing respect neither for agriculture nor for trade; those who think that good alliances and society differ from the state itself (gûyâ devlet başka ve ittifâkât-ı hasene vü cem’iyyet başka), in short such ignorant people (and Şani-zâde seems to imply the janissaries) are easily incited to rebellion and disobey. This was facilitated by Selim’s bad counselors, of whose behaviour Şani-zâde complains in detail (Y40-42).
Commenting on the 1808 signing of the Sened-i ittifâk (Y74-75), Şani-zâde says that as in many other instances in the past, the wise of the realm (‘ukala’-ı ricâl) discussed the common affairs (umûr-ı ‘âmme) and declared what the orderly course would be in their opinion. However, before citing the text of the document he embarks in a short analysis on Ottoman nobility. “The term ‘noble family’ (hânedân)”, he writes, “is attributed to those who without oppression and in a habitual manner sustain themselves and their servants and followers with the properties and lands granted to them by a member of the dynasty and by reason of Sultanic authority (bir devletin ehâlîsinden ber cihet-i hakkâniyye ile), without interfering to the affairs of the kingdom (umûr-ı saltanat) just because they belong to such a family, and without failing to serve [the dynasty] as it is their sacred duty. No matter how rich and powerful they may get, it is a prerequisite of the Holy Law that they are always safe and free from the fear of confiscation and execution… However, if they usurp public property (emvâl-ı Beytülmâl), kill and confiscate the goods of people, raise their own armies and without any rights seize each one part of the territories of the Exalted State… thus they lead to the Imperial territories being expropriated and shared among what they call their noble family (hanedan). Now, the suitability of the Sultan as a caliph (liyâkat-ı mesned-i hilâfet-penâhî) is manifest, as he is the descendant of the House of Osman, who was the chosen heir of the Prophet’s family (muhtâr-ı ehl-i İslâm olmuş), and furthermore he is elected himself (kezâlik muhtâr olan); this document was thus written and signed… in order to cause those who feel estranged from the Sultanic power to be partners in the Sultanic and Imperial orders, which would be issued unanimously with the ministers whom the Sultan would choose”. Later on (Y631-633), his attitude toward the Sened-i ittifâk sounds much more negative: he describes it as “the paper called ‘document of alliance’ by some ecstatic idiots, blinded by the dream of fortune and seeking to establish themselves as statesmen (ricâl-i devlet)” and quotes Mahmud II saying that the authors of the document dared to oppose to the Ottoman sultanate, “which is not possible to be shared” (kâbil-i iştirâk olmayan saltanat-ı ‘Osmâniyye).
Of special interest, in this context, is Şani-zâde’s analysis of consultation or meşveret (Y1093-1094). He sets on to describe a council or rather a series of councils (mecâlis-i meşveret; cf. Y1129) summoned for dealing with the 1821 revolution, with the participation of “a great number of people, as there was an assembly of [even lower janissary officials], the wardens of the bazaar and other guilds in crowds (ve bedestân ve sâ’ir cem’iyyetlüce esnâf kethüdâları cumhûriyyetiyle kesret verildi)”. This unusual decision caused some surprise; and even if one may consider that some sort of information on the strange present situation might thus be obtained, Şani-zâde notes, the benefit from simple knowledge and information is by itself a trifle (mücerred vukûfdan hâsıl olan fâ’ide cüz’iyyât makûlesi bir keyfiyyetdir). Now “some wise have argued that the proper administration of public affairs (umûr-ı cumhûr) duly needs the consent of all individual men (inzımâm-ârây-ı âhâd-i ‘ibâd); and in some organized states (düvel-i muntazama) this advice of wisdom has caused ease and security among subjects and sovereigns (tâbi’ ve metbû’). In these countries, and because this practice has been followed in a great degree in their state laws, whenever need arises two classes of consulting experts, namely the state servants and the representatives of the subjects (hademe-i devlet ve vükelây-ı ra’iyyetden ‘ibâret iki sınıf erbâb-ı meşveret), discuss matters in a free manner (ber-vech-i serbesiyyet; cf. Lewis, The Political Language of Islam, 111) and confer their view of the best possible course by way of a petition; their sovereigns either approve it and put it into execution or, if they discern any weakness or conceive any better course, they always have the power (iktidâr) to do what they deem best. In the aforementioned states, both important and trivial affairs are conducted this way, without complaints or quarrels; however, to be elected by the people (muhtâr-ı nâs olmak) a representative must belong to the experts who have knowledge and wisdom, who are literate and can discuss affairs (küberây-ı kâr-şinâs misillü erbâb-ı re’y ü tedbîr ve ricâl-i mübâhase ve ehl-i mükâtebe vü tahrîrden olmak şurûtuyla); and the right of a representative to enter and serve in the councils of power (mecâlis-i hall ü ‘akd) depends on such qualifications. In the opposite case, there will be no sense whatsoever for the Exalted State -where the Sultan has his own independent opinion- (Devlet-i ‘aliyye-i müstakıllü’r-re’y-i Şâhâne) except that the high councils of viziers and ulema and the assemblies of the higher notables (mecâlis-i şûrây-ı vüzerâ vü ‘ulemâ ve cem’iyyet-i küberây-ı ricâl ü küberâ) will fall without reason into the shape of democracy (cumhûriyyet), with the vain quest for majority (‘abes yere teksîr-i sevâd)”. Decisions in the Ottoman Empire, Şani-zâde concludes, must depend of the will of the Sultan of the Muslims according to the Holy Law; only in some important affairs (umûr-i mu’azzama) it is an ancient custom (bir de’b-i dîrîn) that only viziers, ulema and state servants consult and give their opinion in accordance with the Sunna and the religious precepts. (The word meşveret, “consultation” is usually used for such meetings, for instance the Congress of Vienna: Y1155, 1159). Şani-zâde records his opposition to such enlarged assemblies in other occasions as well; he argues that there must be some wisdom in the creation of certain old arrangements for decision-making, as “not all our ancestors could be mad so that we despise them” (Y1134). Every man tends to think that he holds the most perfect opinion; but the proper way of action would be that everybody looks his own business and abstains from such envy and selfishness.
Elsewhere, Şani-zâde complains of the situation of the Ottoman army (Y85-87): he notes that love of one’s country and national (or religious) zeal (mahabbet-i memleket ve gayret-i milliyye) are innate in the human nature; mankind always sought to live “quite and free” (âzâde ve âsûde). However, lack of training and exercise led most nations to lethargy and dispersal, causing them to be subdued by other tribes. Şani-zâde jumps then to the problem of reforms, observing that man has first to learn and understand before accepting an innovation: before changing a people’s customary usages, one has to make them understand the benefits of a specific reform. The need for a re-ordering of the Ottoman army was still unknown to the common people (‘avâm), because they cannot even understand their own situation: the elite blames the commoners and vice versa (‘avâmm, havâs tarafından ve havâs, ‘avâm kısmından medhûl ü melûm) and thus the virtue that discriminates the two (ikisi beyninde mümeyyiz olur haslet) fails to be understood, producing instead animosity and jealousy. That is why, concludes Şani-zâde, the creation of Nizam-ı cedîd should have been done gradually and with care for the people’s feelings. The author expresses similar thoughts in other parts of his work as well (e.g. Y110-115).
Furthermore complaining of the military situation, Şani-zâde recalls that in the old times all “classes and persons, strangers and peasants” (Y404: esnâf u âhâd... ecnebî vü ra’iyyet) knew their limits and their duties, which were recorded and registered. Now, due to the general changes that came with the time (teceddüd-i eyyâm ve tebeddül-i a’vâm) there arose the need for a reordering (tekmîl-i nizâm), that would deal with the general idleness and lethargy prevailing in all affairs. However, such measures met with a strong opposition, from the rank and file of the janissaries up to the state ministers (vükelâ). Indeed (says Şani-zâde), when the arrangements of great groups called states by the philosophers (Y405: devlet ta’bîr olunan nizâm-ı cemâ’ât-i kübrâ) fall into decline (inhitât), the strongest groups prevail and start to act independently. The class of the janissaries, being (because of their previous order) more united (Y406: müttefik u müctemi’) than the other classes, dominated over them. In this way, however, whatever affluence and comfort had been seized by other nations due to the power of social solidarity (kuvvet-i ictimâ’iyye) gets now lost, as a result of the conflict among the other classes. In a similar vein, elsewhere Şani-zâde uses the old pattern of the four pillars (Y481-482), which constitute every state (devlet): men of the sword, men of the pen, peasants and tradesmen (ehl-i hirfet). The first class, he notes, has prevailed over the others for some time now; but, with the lack of the necessary number of soldiers ready for battle, men from the other three classes were permitted to use the title of a soldier. This contributed both to a relaxing of discipline in war and to the use of such self-called armies by some provincial notables (a’yân ü eşrâf).
In another part, Şani-zâde tries to explain the French victories under Napoleon (Y208-211). He attributes the “perfection of the military arts” to the “national unity” (ittifâk-ı milliyye) exhibited by the French: a tribe that used to have fallen into lethargy, was made strong, enhanced by “patriotism, fraternity, equality and liberty” (Y208: mahabbet-i memleket ve uhuvvet ü müsâvât ve serbestiyyet da’vâlariyle) and under the motto “freedom or death” (Şani-zâde quotes this dictum in Arabic: el-hürriyetü ve’l-mevtü). Furthermore, the French successes in the war were facilitated by their granting full security of life, honour and property (te’min-i ‘ırz u mal ü cân) to the inhabitants of the conquered regions; all the more, the human treatment of Russian prisoners made them friendly to the French cause and army. When liberated, their experiences enhanced the Russian army as well. Şani-zâde uses this reasoning to advocate a peace treaty with Russia (cf. also Y245ff). Elsewhere, he speaks again of the French Revolution (Y624-627): because of the words of some philosophers (feylesof), the inhabitants of Europe (Frengistan) started to seek equality and parity (tesâvî vü i’tidâl) and thus threatened the safety of their old notables (ser-i kâr ve ricâlleri), turning the high against the low; everybody aimed to seize the life and property of one another in order to obtain any whim of theirs (tasarruf-ı keyfe mâ-yeşâ’). Moreover, the grandees and notables started taking posts and ranks, as well as exhibiting luxury, without proper qualifications (zâdegân ve kibârı bilâ-ehliyet zabt-ı mesned ü rütbet ve min-gayr-ı liyâkatin tegallüb ü zînetle ülfet etmiş). Aversion among grandees led to constant warfare, and every state trained its armies to perfection as they started to wage war against each other. Drawn into the same imbroglio, the Ottoman state tried to imitate these developments (mukâbele bi’l-misl tasavvuruna şâyân bir sûret îcâdı ferîza-i zimmet-i diyânet olup; Şani-zâde’s rather negative attitude against Selimian reforms is evident here), but the results were devastating: apart from the loss of more and more territories, the appointment of inappropriate persons led not only to a weakening of the Empire’s military potential, but also to an increase in its expenses. Then Şani-zâde embarks into a critique of some practices concerning tax farmings, arguing that the collection of these revenues should be removed from tax-farmers and conferred to the hands of viziers and governors so as they produce sufficient income to procure abundant armies. He notes (Y626) that soldiers are bound to refuse any change in their attire (mugâyır-ı şi’ârları), and thus the creation of another army (tertîb-i asker-i diğer) seems inconceivable; instead, Mahmud II used effectively his power to bend the resistance of those unwilling for reforms and to impose an order in the old military bodies.
Apart from matters military, Şani-zâde has also advice on more general affairs. He insists, for instance, that every people (her bir kavm ve millet) should obey to its religious leaders (mütedeyyin olduğu dînin ümenâ’-ı şerî’ati) and that no person or group can be excluded from this rule, no matter how high or independent (serbest) it is; for “the partial must always submit to the general” (Y686: cüz’î dâ’imâ küllîsine tâbi’). Elsewhere, in a note apparently appreciated by Cevdet Paşa (Y734-35 and fn), he advocates against new converts to Islam who know the customs and practices of the West and use their knowledge to deceive Muslims in the army and the governmental posts (see also his aversion for strangers in Y746-747). Şani-zâde dwells with details on the need for the servants and retinue of high officials to be regulated under a system of permissions and registers, instead of roaming the provinces and changing allegiances from one official to another (Y826-28; he also complains of the low quality of such officials’ retinues and subordinates in Y967-973 and expresses his surprise on those who, while obey to the Sultan, oppress and kill his subjects to gather wealth in Y989). In a rare piece of economical thought, and while refuting those who claim that there is no money for naval improvements, Şani-zâde argues that money (Y1199: nukûd) is “a kind of crop in the Sultan’s fields”; its abundance depends on the circulation of the agricultural products and the growth of industry and commerce (tervîc-i emr-i hirfet ü ticâret). Since the Ottoman Sultan is still the master of vast cultivated lands, even if some “rare, non-indispensable objects” (gayr-i zarûrî eşyây-ı nâdire) can only be found in other countries, those latter will undoubtedly be in need of the Ottoman state.
One of Şani-zâde’s most concrete and long pieces of political thought is contained in his discussion of the 1821 Greek Revolution, forming a kind of introduction to the narration of the events (Y1027-1046). He begins with the statement that “the real reason of the successive seditions and revolts of the recent years lies in the fact that for the last two centuries, and because of the changes in the customs and laws of the countries (Y1027: inkılâb-ı ‘âdet ve tegayyür-i töre-i memleket), wise people who constitute the “doctors of the state” (erbâb-ı tabâbet-i devlet) and who used to follow closely the rules and prerequisites of politics (kavâ’id ve usûl-i devlet)… have been taking so much needless trouble that they were removed from the administration of the public affairs (müsteb’ad-i dâ’ire-i ru’yet-ı maslahat)”. With this neglect of good counsel, the rules of politics (kavâ’id-i siyâsiyye) have been abandoned and especially the army has lost its discipline and started to oppress the other three pillars. Indeed, just like the overdevelopment of one element in the expense of the others makes the healing of the human body difficult, so does the predominance of one pillar of society over the others spoil the equilibrium of society (mizâc-ı ictimâ’-i medenînin i’tidâlden hurûcu). There are people ready to exploit such situations; and here he reproduces in summary Kınalızâde (K486ff)’s and ultimately Devvânî’s (Rosenthal 220) list of the five categories of people according to their natural inclination towards good or evil, attributing it to “books of natural philosophy (kütûb-ı tabî’iyye) such as Ibn Khaldun’s prolegomena” (Y1028). Some of these people cannot be reformed and must be dealt with only with severe punishments, and a rule of politics (umûr-ı siyâsiyye) is that the statesman must imitate the doctor, who cuts away the limbs that may prove irrevocably dangerous for the body (Y1029). Şani-zâde then cites Fâzıl (Şamseddin) Şehrezûrî (late 13th century), who talks of the four kinds of government “according to Aristotle”: tyranny (siyâsetü’l-galebeti), which ends in the humble and ignorant taking over the country, aristocracy (siyâsetü’l-kerâmeti), or the government of those seeking wealth and honour, government of communities (siyâsetü’l-cemâ’ati), or the “government according to a common law (‘alâ vefkı’l-kânûni’n-nâmûsiyyi’l-mevzû’i) shared by various groups (fırak)”, and monarchy (siyâsetü’l-meliki), which is “the government of governments” and the state of the virtuous.However, goes on Şani-zâde, there are times where such evil people may effectively pursue their selfish ends; they may succeed into entering the ranks of the janissary officers and the timariot soldiers and thus destroy the worth of the whole army. This is why the constant care for discipline and order of the army and the exercise of just administration must be one of the foremost duties of the Sultan. To this effect, Şani-zâde further cites Koçi Bey and “the treatise of Ebu’n-Necîb, so much praised by Na’ima” (see PS1190), and adds that since the year H.1100 (1688) wise counselors such as Mustafa III’s Grand Vizier Râğıb Paşa have prevented the Sultans from waging campaigns before settling the situation of the army (Y1032). Afterwards, however, bad counselors initiated the 1768 campaign, and the soldiers that were raised were so badly disciplined and ill-mannered that they only managed to infuriate the Greek peasants (Rum re’aya), whom they insulted, plundered and oppressed, without being effective at all at war. The long and ill-omened war with the Russians, which always wished the “Muslim nation thrown away from the borders of Europe” (millet-i İslâmiyye’yi Avrupa hudûdundan tard etmek), brought them closer to “the taxpayers of Greek nation, who constitute a great part of the Exalted State” (Y1034: devlet-i ‘aliyye’nin cüz’-i a’zam cizye-güzârı olan millet-i [Rûm]); as a result, and with the encouragement of other European kings as well, the Greeks started to hope to strive away from the Ottoman dominion (zîr-i hükm-i ‘Osmânî’den hurûc).
Şani-zâde then describes the commercial relations of Greek merchants with Europe, the creation of schools and the coming of European-educated teachers, which promoted arts and sciences together with national zeal (Y1035: gayret-i milliye), while Greek youths went to Europe by groups and learnt the art of war. As a result, they came to conspire in order to revolt. Now since almost one-fourth of the inhabitants (ehâlî) of the Ottoman Empire are Christians, it is natural (Y1036: bi-hasebi’t-tabî’iyye) that some of them, even if they live in ease, may suffer from their status of submission (hükm-i ra’iyyet); this explains how revolts erupted several times throughout the second half of the eighteenth century in Montenegro, Georgia, Serbia or the Morea. After accusing Ioannis Capodistria of inciting the rebellion from Corfu, Şani-zâde embarks in translating his 1819 letter (in French) to the Greeks, in which he incites them to care for culture and science, for their moral and intellectual training (terbiyye-i edebiyye, terbiye-i kalemiyye), rather than for any other violent and subversive action (Y1037-1043). He then feels the need to insert a praise of the Ottoman might from the fifteenth century onward, noting however that the transformation of the army to “soldiers made from scattered peasants” (Y1045: rencberden derinti nefere askerî ta’bîri) could be destructive.
Later on, in an interesting passage relating alleged proofs of the Christian conspiracy, Şani-zâde quotes an Armenian Catholic as saying to a Muslim friend that after the forthcoming Christian revolt, both nations will live as free and equal, which will be to the benefit of both (Y1065: siz ve biz serbes ve müsâvî olmak içündür ki, bu cümlemize eyüdür).
The forms of government also appear in another excursus, where Şani-zâde describes the events in Europe after Napoleon’s death (Y1155ff). He narrates the Liberal Triennium in Spain (1820-1823) as a demand for “Demokratis’ law” (Y1155: kânûn-ı Dimukrâtî üzere; cf. İbrahim Müteferrika’s discussion in Ş130-131), i.e. for an administration by unanimous consent with the votes of the representatives of the community (vükelây-ı cumhûr re’yleriyle ittifâk-ı ‘âmme sûretinde ru’yet) or, in other words, for a “democratic rule” (cumhûriyyet kâ’idesi; a little later, Şani-zâde uses the term “democratic government”, hükûmet-i cumhûriyye: Y1157). The reaction of the other European states (the Congress of Vienna) is interpreted with their fear for general insurrection, since there was danger of the peoples preferring this kind of rule by freedom (serbesiyyet) to the “absolute government or monarchy” (“monarşi” ta’bir etdikleri hükûmet-i müstakılle).
 keyfe mâ-yeşâ’ anların dahi intihâb ü ihtiyâr buyurulacakları, vükelây-ı saltanatlarının ittifâk-ı ârâsiyle tenfîz ü icrâ buyurulacak ahkâm-ı Sultânî ve kânûn-ı ber-karâr-ı Hâkânî’ye o makûle kuvvet-i saltanatdan müteneffir u mütecânib olanları teşrîki mûcib olur.
 He describes their works as “natural philosophy” (makâl-i tabî’î-meâlleri), as he is to do later with Ibn Khaldun (Y1028: Mukaddime-i İbn Haldûn misillü ba’zı kütüb-i tabî’iyye).
 Lory, P. “al-Shahrazûrî, Shams al-Dîn Muhammad b. Mahmûd”, EI 2nd ed.; Reza Pourjavady – Sabine Schmidtke, “Some notes on a new edition of a medieval philosophical text in Turkey: Shams al-Dîn al-Shahrazûrî’s Rasâ’il al-shajara al-ilâhiyya”, Die Welt des Islams 46i (2006), 76-85. This citation comes from Shahrazuri’s Rasâ’il al-shajara (N. Görgün ed., Shams al-Dîn Al-Shahrazûrî: Rasâil al-shajarat al-ilâhiyyah fî ‘ulûm al-haqâiq al-rabbâniyyah, Istanbul 2004, II 35; Y1030 fn), which had influenced Davvani and was particularly popular among Ottoman philosophers (see Pourjavady – Schmidtke, “Some notes”, 79)
 See on this letter Apostolos E. Vakalopoulos, Ιστορία του Νέου Ελληνισμού, vol. V, Thessaloniki 1980, 99-102. It is to be noted that, while was considered (and indeed is) a message of submission from the part of the Czar, Şani-zâde cites and translates it as a token of the present corruption (Y1037: nümûne-i keyfiyyet-i fesâd-ı zemân). Among the terms translated, it is worth to note serbesiyyet arzusu (Y1039) for “wish of freedom” and şehrîlik (Y1039, coupled with zarâfet) for “civilization” (which was later to become medeniyyet), as well as vatan and millet for “fatherland” and “nation” respectively. The term terbiye-i politikıyye (Y1042) might be one of the first instances of the word politika in Ottoman Turkish.
Personal experience, official documents, previous chronicles, also European newspapers and reports (see Yılmazer 2008: LXXII-LXXIII). On the political parts, he (mis)quotes Ibn Khaldun “and similar books”, “philosophers” (felâsife) etc.; also Şehrezûrî’s Şecere-i İlâhiyye (II, 1029); in fact, he uses Kâtib Çelebi’s simile of the society as a human body. Şani-zâde’s European sources do not confine in narrations of contemporary events: see e.g. a long note on the relation of the Pope with the (Austrian) Emperor and on the various branches of Lutheranism (Y819-824), or his essay on fire prevention with examples from the London experience (Y852-854).