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Islamic History Sourcebook:
Dr. Cyrus Hamlin:
Turkish Bread, 1907


[Tappan Introduction] Natives who became Christians were put out of their guilds, and therefore it became almost impossible for them to find work. Many were reduced to poverty, even to beggary. Dr. Hamlin, the President of Robert College, discovered that when Mahomet II took Constantinople, in I453, the act of capitulation declared that every foreign nation located in that city might have the privilege of establishing a mill and bakery. "Americans have never claimed this right," said Dr. Hamlin, "and I can therefore claim it." The first step was to obtain the firman, or formal permit, from the Government.

THERE was some curious experience connected with the firman, which so well illustrates "the way things go" in Constantinople, and in the East generally, that I will narrate it. The Government readily promised the firman; and, had no opposition occurred, would have given it. But one of the great pashas was a very extensive owner of mills and bakeries. The mills were all horse-mills then, and he evidently feared that the small steam-mill proposed would grow. He knew what usually comes of giving foreigners an entering wedge. He had the immense guild, also, whose interests were one with his. The promise of the firman was not performed. No Government on earth was ever so skillful in putting off a thing as the Turkish. At length, I began to build, on the faith of the promise. We had not proceeded far, before engineers from the Porte came to examine and take a plan of our works. I knew that foretold an interdict, and counseled all to shut the gate, if they saw an officer approaching. By treaty right, no one could thus enter without an officer accompanying him from our embassy; and I was sure they would not even apply for one, but hope to carry the point irregularly, and to arrest and imprison all the men found working.

One day, at noon recess, the officer came, and Demetri, whom he wished first of all to arrest, was standing in the street, eating bread and olives. "Where is Demetri Calfa?" said he to Demetri himself. "I just saw him at the wine-shop," was the cool reply. "Turn round the corner to your right, at the foot of the street." The officer soon returned; the workmen were all in the attic, the students and I were below. "Who is the master-workman here?" "I am, sir." "I want the rayah master." "There is no such man here." "I arrest you all, young men, and make 'pydos' interdict." "Keep to work, boys! You are students, and can't be arrested in this way." "But these are workmen " "No, sir; they are all my students! " An unwary workman in the attic had, in the mean time, thrust out his head; and the officer saw him. "Ho! you skulker, you are a workman! Come down here, you will go with me!" "I am one of Mr. Hamlin's scholars!" was the cool reply. "You a scholar! Let me hear you read!" The man, who was a good carpenter and a great wag, and belonged to no particular faith, turned round, found a New Testament in Armeno-Turkish, and began to read appropriate passages. The officer was confounded. I then put my hand upon his shoulder, told him he was violating treaty rights, that he could reign on the other side of the wall, but I, within, until he should come in a legal manner; and so I led him out and shut the gate. He sat down upon a stone, and began to soliloquize. "Such an interdict never saw I! The master-workman is a foreign hodja; the workmen are all his students! I am breaking the treaty! My soul! what reply shall I carry back?" I went out and comforted him, and told him to say that if the Porte should violate the treaty again, I should accuse it to the embassy and the American Government. And, as the right was included in the ACapitulations,@ I should inform other embassies of the act. It can enter this establishment again only through our embassy.

The Turkish Government had placed itself in a false position. It must now apply to the embassy and ignore its oft-repeated promise; or it must give the firman. It wisely chose the latter; and the interdict became the amusement of the village, and the chagrin of the pasha and bakers who had instigated it. A very slight matter secured a large patronage to the bakery. Our bread was made a little over weight, instead of following the example of the bakers, who always make it a little under weight. As often as the examiners tried our bread, they said "Mashallah!" and passed on.

The people soon learned the fact; and the amount of time that they would spend to obtain this bread would exceed in value fourfold the difference of weight they would thus gain. The truth is, all men like to be treated well in a bargain, and do not so much mind the amount. We had introduced another improvement. Attempts had been made to bring into market yeast bread, but had failed. The bread of the country is universally leavened bread; and no one but foreigners knew anything about making bread with hop yeast. Having first mastered the art of making good hop yeast, the bread we produced became known as "Protestant bread" and commanded a good sale at an advanced price.


Source

From: Eva March Tappan, ed., The World=s Story: A History of the World in Story, Song and Art, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914), Vol. VI: Russia, Austria-Hungary, The Balkan States, and Turkey, pp. 569-572.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg

Note: Many Western sources about Islamic countries exhibit what has come to be known as orientalism. The terms used ("Mohammedan" for instance rather than "Muslim"), and the attitudes exhibited by the writers need to be questioned by modern readers.


This text is part of the Internet Islamic History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook.

© Paul Halsall, November1998
halsall@fordham.edu