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Date Posted: 11:09:52 02/10/17 Fri
Author: John Tredrea
Subject: Re: Turkish Navy
In reply to: Albert Parker 's message, "Re: Turkish Navy" on 20:55:28 02/09/17 Thu

This is something of a can of worms. The Ottoman project has been in abeyance for several years now for a number of reasons. I can make a few useful comments on the subject, however:

Prior to 1784 when French naval architects and workmen were made available to the Ottomans, there was no systematic protocol in place to record data on either dimensions or armaments on anything approaching European norms. One problem was that data was compiled and stored in different bureaucratic niches (e.g. ordnance, personnel, etc.). Prior to the 1740s, listing of active warships giving their length in ziras and their actual armament were compiled on a ten year cycle for square rigged major warships. Other than this, there does not seem to have been any systematic and centralized system in place. A related problem is that warships were constructed in various yards in the Levant and Black Sea litorral. Separate members of the Maghreb (i.e. Barbary) states of North Africa all maintained their own "fleets" and these were subject to consolidation with the fleet based in time of war between the Ottoman Empire and other European states or the Russian Empire. Prior to 1750, we have fairly complete data on the main fleet units, but the only dimension that was ever recorded was the length in ziras and this was primarily used as a way of designating the size and power of fleet units in much the manner that rated gun capacity was used in European navies. The zira varied to some degree over time and across the Levant, but the accepted standard came to be 1 zira = .757 meters = 2.48'. Because the zira was not of great constructional significance, the lengths of major warships were never broken down into anything more precise that half ziras. I do not believe that there are any records at all with regards to breadth or draught for ships built prior to the 1780s.

Emir Yenir had an excellent article published in Russia a year or so back on the battle of Chesme in which he reconstructs the probable armament of the Ottoman participants based on ammunition distribution records. I regret to say that I can't find my copy in my chaotically disorganized computer files, but I will keep looking until I find the bloody thing.

As John Houghton notes, the best source for information on the Ottoman empire after the accession of Selim III is Innovation and Empire in Turkey, Sultan Selim III and the Modernization of the Ottoman Navy by Tuncay Zorlu published by Tauris Academic Studies in 2008. John Houghton has done a great deal of research on post-Napoleonic sail and has been able to summarize the gun establishments of major Ottoman warships in 1837 in his own The Navies of the World 1835-1840 Melbourne 2011.

Beyond these sources, I fear that detailed information on the Ottomans from 1750 through the end of sail in 1865 is simply unobtainable beyond ship names, rated guns, and completion dates and even these are incomplete and sometimes contradictory because of, among other things, the use of multiple names to describe a single vessel and the fact that the same name may have been assigned to several ships. The Ottomans were far from being unsophisticated during this period, but the kind of obsessive bureaucratic record keeping that characterized Western European navies was simply not part of their organizational system until after the reforms of Selim III and the extensive introduction of French shipbuilding methods under Le Brune in the 1790s.

I hope that this will be somewhat helpful. It has been several years since I have looked into the Ottoman naval issue and apologize in advance for any misstatements that I may have made here. :-)

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