Istanbul 30 Years Ago: Urban Life in the 1900s
Alus, Sermet Muhtar. 30 Sene Evvel İstanbul: 1900'lü Yılların Başlarında Şehir Hayatı. Faruk Ilıkan (ed.). İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2005, 294pp.


Istanbul 30 Years Ago: Urban Life in the 1900s

30 Sene Evvel İstanbul: 1900'lü Yillarin Başlarinda Şehir Hayatı

This 294 page book is a collection of journalist Sermet Muhtar Alus’ articles on Istanbul. 

Alus was born in 1887 and lived most of his life in Istanbul. From a young age he wrote extensively for different journals and papers. From 1930 on, Alus’ articles on Istanbul were published under the same titles in a range of popular journals and newspapers of the period. These articles reflected Alus’ daily observations and historical knowledge, while providing information on the social life, night life, entertainment culture, daily routines, customs and traditions and life stories of the elite as well as relations between the different ethnic and religious communities of Istanbul. 

The book is a collection of roughly forty short newspaper articles written by Sermet Muhtar Alus on Istanbul, published in Akşam between 12 March 1931 and 27 September 1931. The articles provide valuable testimonies for social historians interested in early twentieth century Istanbul as they cover topics on the organisation of public space, relations between different social classes and communities among other aspects. 

The book contains explanations and notes on outdated vocabulary in order to make the texts more accessible to the contemporary reader. The style and phrasing of Alus along with his illustrations have been maintained by the editor of the collection, Faruk Ilıkan, who has also included many of the original images published with the articles in 1931. 

Although not written specifically for an academic audience, this book is a very important source for Istanbul’s urban history. Alus’ articles display the multi-faceted urban life of cosmopolitan Istanbul which can be useful for historians seeking to understand different aspects of Istanbul before the First World War. 

Helin Burkay
Burkay, Helin. “English abstract of 'Istanbul 30 Years Ago: Urban Life in the 1900s'". Translated by Helin Burkay. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi. 118. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
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