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Harvard Worldwide Week Event: SHARIAsource Lunch Talk :: Book Talk on From Slaves to Prisoners of War: The Ottoman Empire, Russia, and International Law (Oxford University Press, 2018)

October 22, 2018 @ 12:00 - 13:00

Author: Will Smiley, Assistant Professor, University of New Hampshire

Moderator: Intisar Rabb, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Professor of History, Harvard University


Cemal Kafadar, Vehbi Koç Professor of Turkish Studies, Harvard University

Mariam Sheibani, Visiting Fellow, ILSP: SHARIAsource, Harvard Law School

Will Smiley will discuss the research underlying his new book, in which he charts the changing law and practice of captivity and slavery in the Ottoman Empire and Middle East, at the intersection of Islamic and international law. 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. In the eighteenth century, the Ottoman state and its Russian rival, through conflict and diplomacy, worked out a new system of regional international law – replacing systems of ransom and enslavement with new rules that 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—not as a product of European imposition or imitation, but with maintained commitments to Islamic law. For a time even European empires played by these rules before 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. *Organized in collaboration with the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs (OVPIA) as part of the Worldwide Week at Harvard University, a week featuring a series of events that showcase Harvard’s global and comparative scholarship around the University. World Wide Week takes place between 22-26 October 2018. RSVP to [email protected].


October 22, 2018
12:00 - 13:00
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Austin 102
Austin Hall, Harvard Law School United States


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