Life in Izmir [Smyrna] in the Nineteenth Century
Beyru, Rauf. 19. Yüzyılda İzmir'de Yaşam. Istanbul: Literatür, 2000, 443pp. 


Life in Izmir [Smyrna] in the Nineteenth Century

19. Yüzyılda İzmir'de Yaşam

19. Yüzyılda İzmir'de Yaşam is a social history work that focuses on life in the city of Izmir. Beyru provides the reader with detailed information about different aspects of city life in 19th century Izmir, such as attire and finery, sports activities, social clubs, concerts, religious celebrations, weddings, various ceremonies and the relationship between different ethnic and religious communities.

The book is divided into three main chapters entitled “Demographic Structure of Izmir before the Nineteenth Century”, “İzmir in the Nineteenth Century” and “Social Life in İzmir during the Nineteenth Century”, respectively. Drawing from witness accounts and statistical data, Beyru proclaims that İzmir’s population displayed a “multicultural” structure, as it included a variety of ethnic and religious communities. As well as the predominant Turkish Muslim community, there were Armenians, Jews, Greeks, and different sects of Christian communities living side by side in Izmir. Furthermore, another significant community sometimes referred to as “Frenk” (European), or alternatively as “Levanten” (Levantine); whose settlement in İzmir can be traced back to the fifteenth century, can also be counted as an important component of İzmir’s population. Beyru clarifies that during the Ottoman Empire all foreigners of European origin were called 'Levantines' and that the term was used to describe settlers who had originated from European families.

In the third chapter which also forms the main part of the book, Beyru focuses on the different domains of social life in İzmir with its “mixed” and “multicultural” population. Divided into twelve sections, this chapter examines a range of subjects including social relations, social clubs, ethnic and religious work, missionary programmes run by Catholic and Protestant groups, fashion and attire, sporting activities, education, concerts, feasts and festivals, ceremonies, rituals and visits, thereby depicting a rich and varied tapestry of 19th century İzmir.

As mentioned in the foreword, the sources used are primarily accounts by travellers, memoirs and other official documents. The work also contains a wealth of illustrations, including maps of social clubs and theatres in İzmir, drawings of clothing worn by men and women, samples of tariff cards, paintings and photographs of the city and its populace, and even brochures of foreign stores around İzmir.

19. Yüzyılda İzmir'de Yaşam is therefore not only a significant book that offers an objective depiction of a nineteenth century Ottoman city and its life, but also a substantial contribution for researchers interested in Ottoman society and city life in general.

Ali Serdar
Serdar, Ali. “English abstract of 'Life in Izmir [Smyrna] in the Nineteenth Century'". Translated by Ali Serdar. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi. 158. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
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