Challenging Prominent Interpretations: The ‘Tulip Age’

Öne çıkan yorumlara meydan okumak: “Lale Devri”

Abstract:
History in the public sphere is, often, the prevailing interpretation of certain historical events – an interpretation that lacks richness and a multifaceted approach. This is, of course, mirrored in history in school. Adem Artam from Turkey, shares how he addressed this issue by developing a lesson plan on the 18th century ‘Tulip Age’ (1718-1730), a time which has been generally known and taught as a period of pleasure and entertainment in Ottoman history, by enabling his students to see that the period did not only comprise of these features but also from important scientific, cultural and artistic developments that took place during this period.
DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2021-18299
Languages: English, Turkish



Tarih ile ilgili okumalarım arttıkça tarih olarak bildiğimiz pek çok şeyin belli ve genel geçer bilgiler, yorumlar olduğunu gördüm. Aslında aynı duruma her gün haber bültenlerinde, gazetelerde de rastlıyoruz. Gazetecilerin, habercilerin bugün için yaptığını bazı tarihçiler de geçmiş için yapıyorlar. Sonradan farklı bilgiler, belgeler ve bakış açılarıyla karşılaştığımızda gerçek diye bildiğimiz bazı şeylerin, bazı unsurların abartılırken bazı unsurların da görmezden gelinerek veya önemsenmeyerek bize ulaştırıldığını üzülerek ve şaşırarak öğrendim.

Konumsallık ve Motivasyonlar

İnsan gibi çok yönlü, dolayısıyla davranışlarına pek çok şeyin yön verdiği, yönlendirdiği bir varlığın ürünü olan zengin bir tarihin de olabildiğince çok yönlü olarak öğrencilere aktarılabileceğini, bunun öğrencilerin tarihi algılamalarını zenginleştireceğini, böylece öğrencilerin tarihe ilgilerinin ve sevgilerinin artacağını düşünmem bu hususta beni arayışlara ve risk almaya sevk etti. Çünkü bilim, en benzer gibi görünen olayların arasındaki farklılıkları yakalamaya çalışır.

Tarıhı olayları biricik yapan da bu farklılıkları bulmaktır. Tarihin, tarihi olayların, dönemlerin ve bunları öğretmenin yolu bu farklılıkları, ayrıntıları yakalamaktan ve öğretmekten geçer. Aksi takdirde öğrettiğimiz, öğretmeye çalıştığımız tarihin zenginliği değil, baskın ve tek taraflı yorumu haline gelir. Bu da öğrencilerin ilgisini çekmiyor ve tarihi sıkıcı bir ezber dersi haline getiriyor.

Öne çıkan tarihyazımlarını ele almak için sınıfta risk almak

Osmanlı tarihinde genellikle bir zevk, sefa ve eğlence devri olarak bilinen ve öğretilen 18. yüzyıldaki Lale Devri’nin (1718-1730) sadece bu özelliklerinden ibaret olmadığını, bu dönemde önemli bilimsel, kültürel ve sanatsal gelişmelerin de yaşandığını konu alan bir etkinlik/ders planı geliştirdim.

Getirmeye çalıştığım yenilik, tarihi bir dönemin sonradan sadece en öne çıkartılan özellikleriyle değil, perde gerisinde bırakılan özelliklerinin de ön plana çıkartılarak tanıtılmasıydı. Böylece bir dönemi tek taraflı, güdümlü ve önyargılı olarak tanıtmanın, anlatmanın tarihe haksızlık olduğunu o döneme farklı açılardan ve özelliklerinden yola çıkarak göstermeye çalıştım. Öğrencilerin ezberlerini bozmak, iyi kötü bildiklerini düşündükleri bir dönem hakkında onları şaşırtmak, hatta tepki çekmek bu sürecin riskleriydi.

Öncülük etmeye çalıştığım husus, tarihin bize sadece gösterilenlerden ve bazı tarihçilerin yorumlarından ibaret olmadığıydı. Tarihi bir döneme farklı bir açıdan yaklaşarak az bilinen şeylerin de aslında önemli olduğunu gerekçeleriyle göstermeye ve resmin tamamını veya farklı bir boyutunu anlatmaya çalıştım. Nasıl ki günümüzdeki olaylara farklı insanlar (kurumlar, ajanslar, gazeteler, televizyonlar, devletler) farklı öncelik ve düşüncelerle yaklaşıyor, bazı özellikleri daha ön plana çıkartırken bazı özellikleri de arka planda bırakıyor yahut görmezden geliyorsalar aynı şeyin tarih derslerindeki önemli tarihi dönemler için de geçerli olduğunu böylelikle göstermeye gayret ettim.

Öğrencilerimin tarihi bir dönemden hareketle tarihteki diğer dönemlere ve olaylara da farklı açılardan bakmalarının önemli ve gerekli olduğunu bu şekilde, örnek bir tarihi dönem üzerinden uygulamalı olarak ispat etmeye çalıştım. Ayrıca tarihin tarihçilerin öne çıkan yorumları olduğunu, ama bunun da tarihte genel özellikler dışında bazı, hatta çoğu ayrıntıyı gözden kaçırdığını, bunun da eksik, yanlı, hatta yanlış hükümlere yol açabileceğini öğrencilerime kavratmak istedim.

Maksadım, tarihi bir olaya, döneme gösterilenden farklı şekillerde de bakmanın, incelemenin mümkün, hatta gerekli olduğu, bunun hem tarih algımızı hem de düşünce dünyamızı zenginleştirdiğini ortaya koymaktı. Bir atasözündeki gibi: “Olayları değiştiremiyorsanız bakış açınızı değiştirin.” Tarihte tabi ki olayları değiştiremeyiz, ama bakış açımızı değiştirebiliriz. Yapmaya çalıştığım, öğrencilerimin tarihi bir döneme farklı bir açıdan bakmalarını sağlayıp manzarayı daha geniş bir açıdan ve daha bütüncül olarak görmelerini sağlamaktı.

Yeniden ziyaret eden ve yeniden inceleyen bir tarihten ilham almak

Böyle bir ders planı yapmamın en büyük sebebi, bir gazetede Osmanlı’daki Lale döneminin uzmanlarının –ki içinde bazılarını tanıdığım, kitaplarını okuduğum edebiyatçılar, edebiyat tarihçileri, sanat tarihçileri gibi farklı alanlardan bilim insanlarının açıklamaları vardı.– Lale dönemi hakkındaki tespitleri vardı. Hepsi de bu dönemin yanlış, tek taraflı ve olumsuz tanıtıldığını söylüyorlardı. Dönemin tamamının zevk, eğlence, sefa dönemi olmadığını, bunların yanında bu dönemde kültürel, sanatsal ve teknik yönlerden pek çok gelişmeye de imza atıldığını, dolayısıyla Lale döneminin hakkının yenildiğini söylüyorlardı.

Bu haberden hareketle birkaç araştırma yapınca bu dönemin öteden beri gösterildiği gibi olumsuzluklarla yüklü olmadığını gördüm. İşte Lale döneminin bu az bilinen gerçeklerine temas etmeye çalıştım. Yapmaya çalıştığım pembe bir tablo çizmeye çalışmak değil, siyahın /olumsuzlukların yanında beyaz/olumlu yönleri de göstermekti. Öğrencilerimin de bundan etkilendiklerini, bunun hoşlarına gittiğini sevinerek gördüm. Aldığım en güzel karşılık buydu.

Tarih risk alarak karşımıza daha zengin ve daha bütünsel bir şekilde çıkıyor

İnsanların çok bilinen (veya bilindiği zannedilen) bir olay hakkındaki ezber bilgilerini, klişe ifadeleri, önyargılarını sarsmak, zorlamak her zaman tepkiyi çeker. Özellikle de tarihte. Yüzyıllar içinde üst üste birike birike katlanan, ağırlaşan, artık değişmez zannedilen tarihi bilginin bir kısmının çok doğru olmadığını veya yanlı olduğunu göstermeye çalışmak tabi ki çok zor. Ama tarihe damgasını vuran insanların çoğunun da fikirleri ve icraatlarıyla yenilikçi ve farklı insanlar olduğunu görüyoruz. Nasıl ki onlar da başta tepki çekmişlerse aynı durum, tarih için de geçerli.

İnsanın bireysel hayatında olduğu gibi milletlerin tarihinde de her dönemin farklı özellikleri ve dinamikleri var. Bu farklı özellikleri, bakış açılarını yok saymak kendimizi de tarihi anlamamızı da zorlaştırıyor. Bu riski göze alabilirseniz tarih, karşınızda daha zengin ve bütüncül haliyle kendisini sergiliyor. Böylece sadece tarihe değil, güncel olaylara da daha geniş ve farklı bakmaya başlayabiliyorsunuz.

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Tavsiye edilen okuma metinleri

  • Erimtan, Can. Ottomans looking west?: The origins of the Tulip Age and its development in modern Turkey. London, New York: I.B.Tauris, 2008.
  • Zilfi, Madeline C. “Women and Society in the Tulip Era, 1718–1730.” In Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History, edited by Amira El Azhary Sonbol, 290–303. Syracuse: Syracuse Univ. Press 1996.

İnternet Siteleri:

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Image Credit

“De eerste schooldag” by Jean Baptiste Vanmour between 1720-1737 – http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/collectie/SK-A-2005, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34321074.

Recommended Citation

Artan, Adem: Challenging Prominent Interpretations: The ‘Tulip Age’. In: Public History Weekly 9 (2021) 4, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2021-18299.

Editorial Responsibility

Bassel Akar / Maria K. Georgiou

As my reading about history increased, I realised that many things we know as history are considered certain and generally valid information and interpretations. In fact, we encounter the same situation every day in news and newspapers. Some historians also do for the past what journalists and reporters do for today. When I came across different information, documents and perspectives, I learned with sadness and surprise that regarding some things that we know as real, some elements are exaggerated and some elements are ignored or not given the appropriate attention.

Positionality and Motivations

I think that a rich history, which is multi-faceted like human beings in that it is directed and guided by many things, should be conveyed to students as ellaborately as possible. This will enrich students’ perceptions of history, thus increasing their interest and love in history, because scientificity tries to examine the differences between the events that appear to be the most similar.

Finding these differences is what makes historical events unique. History, historical events and periods, and the way to teach them is through capturing and teaching these differences and details. Otherwise, it becomes the dominant and one-sided interpretation of what we teach, not the richness of the history we are trying to teach. This does not interest students and makes history a boring memorization lesson.

Taking Risks

A lesson plan I developed to address the above issues was on the 18th century ‘Tulip Age’ (1718-1730), which was generally known and taught as a period of pleasure and entertainment in Ottoman history. However, the period did not only comprise of these features. Important scientific, cultural and artistic developments also took place in this period.

The novelty I tried to bring was the introduction of not only the most prominent features of a historical period but also the features behind what can be seen. That is, I tried to show that it is unfair to history to introduce and tell a period as one-sided, guided and prejudiced, based on different aspects and characteristics of that period. The risks of this process were to break the memorization of the students, to surprise them about a period they thought they knew well and badly, and even to react. I try to pioneer the understanding that history is not just what we are shown and the interpretation of some historians. By approaching a historical period from a different perspective, I try to show that the lesser known things are actually important and to explain the whole or a different dimension of the picture. I try to show that, just like different people (institutions, agencies, newspapers, televisions, states) approach today’s events with different priorities and thoughts, putting some features in the foreground while leaving some features in the background or ignore them, the same is true for important historical periods in history lessons.

My aim with this lesson was to reveal that it is possible, and even necessary, to look at a historical event in different ways than the ones shown, and that this enriches both our perception of history and our world outlook: “if you can’t change things, change your perspective”, as conveyed in a known proverb. Of course we cannot change events in history, but we can change our perspective. What I was trying to do, therefore, was to enable my students to see a historical period from a different angle, a broader perspective and in a more holistic manner.

Taking Inspiration

The biggest reason for me to make such a lesson plan was the statements of the experts of the ‘Tulip Era’ in the Ottoman Empire – some of whom I knew – and the authors whom I read , such as, writers, literary historians, art historians, journalists. They all put forward that this period was misrepresented, one-sided, and portrayed negatively. They said that the entire period was not a period of pleasure, entertainment, and pleasure, and that many developments in cultural, artistic and technical aspects were made in this period. In other words, they were saying that the positive aspects of the Tulip period were eradicated.

When I did research based on this news, I saw that this period was not loaded with negativity as it has been shown for a long time. With this lesson, I tried to touch on these little known facts of the Tulip period. What I was trying to do was not to try to paint a neutral painting, but to show the positive aspects as well as the negative ones. I was happy to see that my students were also impressed by it and liked it. It was the best response I have ever received.

Reward

Teaching in a critical manner, especially in history, is vital. This is because we need to shake people’s memorization knowledge, cliché expressions and prejudices about a well-known (or supposedly known) event, and challenging these always necessitates reacting. It is, of course, very difficult to try to show that some of the historical information which has accumulated over the centuries, gained more prominence and is considered to be unchangeable, is, in fact, not very correct or biased. Yet we can see that most of the people who left their mark on history are innovative and different, both in their ideas and actions. Just as they reacted, the same is true for history as a whole.

Every historical period has different characteristics and dynamics, in the history of nations, as well as in the individual life of human beings. Ignoring these different features and points of view makes it difficult for us to understand both ourselves and history. If we can take this risk, history presents itself in a richer and more holistic form before us. Thus, we can start looking at not only history but also current events in a wider and different way.

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Further Reading

  • Erimtan, Can. Ottomans looking west?: The origins of the Tulip Age and its development in modern Turkey. London, New York: I.B.Tauris, 2008.
  • Zilfi, Madeline C. “Women and Society in the Tulip Era, 1718–1730.” In Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History, edited by Amira El Azhary Sonbol, 290–303. Syracuse: Syracuse Univ. Press 1996.

Web Resources

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Image Credits

“De eerste schooldag” by Jean Baptiste Vanmour between 1720-1737 – http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/collectie/SK-A-2005, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34321074.

Recommended Citation

Artan, Adem: Challenging Prominent Interpretations: The ‘Tulip Age’. In: Public History Weekly 9 (2021) 4, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2021-18299.

Editorial Responsibility

Bassel Akar / Maria K. Georgiou

Copyright © 2021 by De Gruyter Oldenbourg and the author, all rights reserved. This work may be copied and redistributed for non-commercial, educational purposes, if permission is granted by the author and usage right holders. For permission please contact the editor-in-chief (see here). All articles are reliably referenced via a DOI, which includes all comments that are considered an integral part of the publication.

The assessments in this article reflect only the perspective of the author. PHW considers itself as a pluralistic debate journal, contributions to discussions are very welcome. Please note our commentary guidelines (https://public-history-weekly.degruyter.com/contribute/).


Categories: 9 (2021) 4
DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2021-18299

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  1. To all readers we recommend the automatic DeepL-Translator for 22 languages. Just copy and paste.

    OPEN PEER REVIEW

    The Need for Transformative History Teaching

    The author describes a brave attempt to depart from the official textbook narrative of the Tulip Age during the Ottoman period as a period of pleasure and entertainment. This critical viewpoint was inspired by his/her reading of the work of writers, ‘literary’ and art historians, and journalists who offered a more complex account of the past compared to the textbook account. Students, notes the author, welcomed working with more multiperspectival, accounts. Such initiatives resonate well with our own experience of history teaching in Cyprus, and especially with the work of the Association for Historical Dialogue abd Research (AHDR).

    Cyprus is currently entangled in memories and denials of past conflict and division, intracommunal as well as intercommunal, with a buffer zone patrolled by the United Nations Force in Cyprus dividing the island and its people. Since the partial lifting of restrictions and opening of a number of checkpoints on 23 April 2003, academics involved in history teaching from across the divide, have founded a grass-roots intercommunal civil-society non-governmental organisation, the AHDR. AHDR aspires to promote dialogue on, and research into, history and history teaching, to contribute to peace, stability, democracy and critical thinking. More specifically, the AHDR aims, amongst other, to collect and share resources on history and history teaching; develop educational materials for educators and students; and increase public awareness of the importance of dialogue and multiperspectivity for history, historiography, history teaching and learning.

    In a publication titled “Constructing the AHDR Supplementary Educational Materials: A Journey in Cooperation for a Better History Education”, Counsell, Makriyianni & Onurkan-Samani (2013) argue that history education should help students develop the knowledge and mental tools that are necessary for them to understand the contemporary and future world in which they are going to live as adults. This means that students need to be able to understand how accounts about the past are constructed in the first place, how and why such accounts differ along with the questions asked and the available evidence. Students should understand the different kinds of question – change, cause, significance, diversity – that produce different types of account. They need to work out why it is that different questions, different methodologies, different perspectives will cause narratives and analyses to have different emphases and parameters. Students ought to learn to make their own reasoned judgments about the shape and purpose of their own and others’ accounts, whether these exist in museums, textbooks, works of scholarship or journalism. This, according to Counsell et al. (2013) is historical thinking and this is a line of thought that the author of “Challenging prominent interpretations: The ‘Tulip Age’” might find interesting to further investigate.

    There is also now significant teacher-authored research evidencing that students can be encouraged to acquire the conceptual tool-kit, which will enable them to comprehend the different kinds of claims that can be made about the past, while also learning how these can be tested (Kitson and Husbands, 2011; Counsell, 2011). Even younger teenagers can acquire a disposition to produce the best possible arguments for whatever stories we tell, gain a respect for evidence, and be open to the fact that we may find ourselves ‘obliged to tell different stories from the ones we would prefer to tell’ (Lee, 2011, 65).

    It is important to move towards a paradigm of transformative history teaching. In this direction, the article’s author might also benefit by research indicating ways to challenge entrenched and unsubstantiated positions, ‘myth-bust’ and expose the abuse of history; deconstruct master narratives; recognise complexity, initiate informed individual interpretations, and foster debate; engage students in an explicit exploration of the relationship between national identity(ies) and history; place proper emphasis not only on the content of what is being taught but also on the processes through which historical knowledge is organized and communicated (Psaltis, et al. 2020)

    ___________

    References

    Counsell, C. (2011). Disciplinary knowledge for all, the secondary history curriculum and history teachers’ achievement. Curriculum Journal 22 (2), 201-226.

    Counsell, C., Makriyianni, C. & Onurkan Samani, M, (2013). Constructing the AHDR Supplementary Educational Materials: A Journey in Cooperation for a Better History Education. Nicosia (Cyprus): Association for Historical Dialogue and Research.

    Kitson, A., and Husbands, C. (2011). Teaching and Learning History 11-18: Understanding the Past. Maidenhead, England: Open University Press.

    Lee, P. J. (2011). Historical literacy and transformative history. In: L. Perikleous, & D. Shemilt (eds.), The Future of the Past: Why history education matters, pp. 129-168. Nicosia (Cyprus): Association for Historical Dialogue and Research.

    Psaltis, C., McCully, A., Agbaria, A., Makriyianni, C., Pingel, F., Karahasan, H., Carretero, M., Oguz, M., Choplarou, R., Philippou, S., Wagner, W. & Papadakis, Y. (2017). Recommendations for the History Teaching of Intergroup Conflicts. COST IS 1205 Working Group.

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