The Foundation Myth of Bosnian Muslims: The Devsirme in Ottoman Bosnia


EES Dissertation


Department of History


This project explores Bosnian Muslims in the Ottoman devsirme, a levy of young men trained and educated as elite military and bureaucratic slaves. Illegal according to Islamic law in its own right, this institution was extended to include Bosnian Muslims, a double illegality. I contextualize this practice and explore the foundation myth that justifies it, providing a new line of inquiry and a fresh approach to devsirme studies. Moreover, this project speaks to Ottoman interpretations of Islamic law and is a vital part of the history of the Bosnian Muslim community, whose current ties remain rooted in former Ottoman lands. This is a cross-regional, cross-cultural study encompassing the entwined histories of Bosnia and Turkey through the use of Bosnian and Turkish archival sources.