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The aim of this two-year course is to prepare students to undertake research in Ottoman history, by enabling them to acquire the basic linguistic tools, some familiarity with the types of source material, an overview of the central period of the Ottoman Empire, and some research experience in the form of writing a short thesis.
Ottoman Turkish is a highly demanding language, consisting of a Turkish base overlaid with often remarkably substantial lexical and grammatical borrowings from Arabic and Persian. It was written in the Arabic script. This course has been designed with two different types of student in mind in terms of previous linguistic experience:
- Those who have a good command of modern Turkish but no knowledge of Ottoman;
- Those who have a good command of Arabic or Persian but no knowledge of Turkish.
In the first year students divide their time between language work and the study (through tutorials) of Ottoman history 1453-1699 (to be examined in Paper (1) of the Final Examination). Because of the variation in entrants' linguistic background, the programme of language study is constructed ad hominem, but will usually include at least one term of one of the Elementary Language Classes (Arabic/Persian/Turkish) organised by the Faculty Board. The study of Ottoman Turkish (again in small classes) begins in Hilary Term. The Qualifying Examination is designed to test candidates' ability to read Ottoman Turkish and consists of one three-hour paper containing passages for translation and comment from the set texts read in the first year as well as an unprepared passage for translation from Ottoman. It is taken not later than the end of Trinity Term.
The second year is devoted to the study of the prescribed texts for Papers 2-4 and the writing of a thesis of not more than 30,000 words. All prescribed texts are read in detail in class, and students are required, in the examination, to translate and/or comment on specific passages and also to answer questions relating to the evaluation of the texts as historical source material or as historiography. As for the thesis, a topic will have been agreed by the end of the first year, and a supervisor appointed. This supervisor is available for consultation on a regular basis during the period of research and writing.