To Dam or Not to Dam: The Social Construction of an Ottoman Hydraulic Project, 1701–02

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In 1701, the Ottoman court of Sultan Mustafa II ordered the construction of a major dam to revert the Euphrates River to its old course. This article uses a little-known eyewitness account by military expert Esiri Hasan Ağa to reveal hitherto unknown disputes over the dam project, both within government and in public. The ambitious dam, this article argues, was more controversial than Ottoman historiography has supposed, leading to one of the bloodiest atrocities in world history associated with dam evictions. The article recounts the views of premodern actors who considered a river channel shift as an opportunity, balancing out environmental histories that evaluate such an environmental change primarily through the prism of hazard. More broadly, Esiri’s career suggests that the evolution of early modern expertise into more theoretical understanding was more global than acknowledged in the historiography of science and technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-484
Number of pages29
JournalTechnology and Culture
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)

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