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Under Osman's TreeThe Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and Environmental History$
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Alan Mikhail

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226427171

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226427201.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 19 September 2021

Irrigation Works

Irrigation Works

(p.19) 1 Irrigation Works
Under Osman's Tree

Alan Mikhail

University of Chicago Press

This chapter describes the bureaucratic, legal, and laboring mechanisms through which irrigation functioned in the countryside of Ottoman Egypt. It begins with an analysis of the earliest survey of irrigation in Egypt shortly after the Ottomans conquered the province in 1517. It shows how precedent for the management of irrigation works and local knowledge of environments shaped the Ottoman bureaucratic understanding of rural Egypt that came to be ensconced in their survey of the countryside. The chapter then discusses how these ideals on paper were challenged and changed by the ever shifting ecological circumstances on the ground in Egypt. Analyses of numerous court cases concerning irrigation repairs in Egypt bring to light the constant negotiation between Egyptian rural cultivators and the Ottoman state, the role of peasant expertise in the management of water resources, and the use of precedent in the adjudication of disputes over water. Overall, this chapter aims to set the context for understanding how irrigation functioned in the Egyptian countryside.

Keywords:   irrigation, precedent, law, peasants, tax farmers, canals, dredging, surveying, food production, Nile

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