Food and Wood
Food and Wood
This chapter examines the eighteenth-century movement of timber from Anatolian forests to the Egyptian Red Sea port of Suez to build ships to move the province’s surplus grain. Although Egypt was the largest producer of foodstuffs in the Ottoman Empire, it was sorely lacking in forests and hence also in lumber, a vital resource for shipbuilding and infrastructural projects. The empire thus regularly undertook extremely complex and costly projects of timber harvest to provision wood to Egypt and elsewhere. This movement of timber from Anatolia across the Mediterranean to Egypt elucidates how demand for certain natural resources in one part of the empire resulted in massive environmental manipulation elsewhere. Moreover, because the demand for enormous quantities of a natural resource such as wood could only be met by the state’s interventionist forest policies, the story of the Ottoman Empire’s management of wood and grain exposes some of the limits of market forces in the early modern Ottoman Mediterranean.
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