Tools of revolution: Global military surplus, arms dealers and smugglers in the late Ottoman balkans, 1878-1908

Öztan R. H.

Past and Present, vol.237, no.1, pp.167-195, 2017 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 237 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Doi Number: 10.1093/pastj/gtx034
  • Journal Name: Past and Present
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.167-195
  • Istanbul Medipol University Affiliated: Yes


While much has been said about the roles played by the military technologies in the consolidation of modern states and empires, we know very little about the effects of similar processes on the violent collapse of empires. Shifting the analytic focus from the tools of empires to tools of revolution, this study accordingly examines the case of the late Ottoman Balkans where I trace the impact of illicit commodity chains on the late Ottoman revolutionary politics. I am particularly interested in the emergence of a global military surplus of military hardware as a result of the nineteenth-century global arms race and how these surplus weapons diffused among a range of sub-state actors, including the revolutionaries in the Ottoman Empire. I accordingly reconstruct the biographies of two entrepreneurs who played active roles in the illicit transfer of surplus weapons into the revolutionary organizations active in the Ottoman interior. In doing so, I hope to illustrate the ways in which the illicit exchange of surplus weapons stood at the center of the construction of political networks and loyalties in the Ottoman Balkans.