Abstract

Capital of the Ottoman province of Habeş and a major entrepôt for trade between the African intenor and the Hijaz, the Indian Ocean, and Egypt, Sudan’s apogee largely coincided with its direct rule by the Ottomans between the early to mid sixteenth century and the early nineteenth century. Although a number of short studies of the history of Suakin have been written, these have rarely referred to the pertinent Ottoman language sources. Older scholarship thus tended to assume the port was merely a remote Ottoman outpost, cut off from its African hinterland, while research that has given more prominence to the role of Suakin’s Ḥaḍāriba elite in the life of the city has paid less attenüon to the Ottoman context in which they operated. In this essay, I offer an overview of Suakin’s development under Ottoman rule drawing on the Ottoman materials. These of course have their own penh, for the Ottoman archival documents largely consht of reports to or orders from Istanbul, usually concerning the appointment ofofficiah, the military situation, and requests for reinforcements. Trade is rarely prominent in the documents, as none of the Ottoman financial records of the port or province have come to light Literary sources, in the form of reports of revolt in Suakin in 1655 and die traveler Evliya Çelebi’s account of his visit some two decades later, shed more light on social and economic history, at least for the seventeenth century. The Ottoman evidence, scant though it may be compared to that surviving for the Mediterranean world, is our prime source for the history of Suakin.

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