Geolocating Ottoman Settlements: The Use of Historical Maps for Digital Humanities
Keywords: Ottoman Empire, Historical Maps, Geolocation
Abstract. This paper aims to demonstrate and discuss the ways historical maps are used for geo-spatial and digital humanities, as well as their challenges, based on an ongoing project that aims to geolocate settlements in Ottoman Turkey, as registered in the mid-nineteenth century. As part of an ERC project, the project team has georeferenced historical maps of Asia Minor published by official institutions in the early twentieth century. Utilising these maps, the project team has been working on determining the present-day locations of Ottoman settlements as surveyed in the population registers of the 1840s and creating a geodatabase that aims to make the geographical and demographic information on these registers available and accessible to historians and social scientists. In the paper, we first introduce the Ottoman population registers and the ways we digitise and analyse these registers and then give a background on the maps we employ in these efforts. We then aim to explain the process of georeferencing these maps, the ways we bring together both the registers and the maps to locate these villages on the present-day maps, and the challenges/problems we encounter in this process. In the final part of the paper, we discuss how this project's end results could be employed for new questions, approaches, and debates in studies on modern Ottoman-Turkish history within the framework of perspectives developed in digital humanities.