Ottoman Diplomats is a digitization project of the research group Power in History: Centre for Political History at the University of Antwerp (UA). It offers online access to a selection of diplomatic documents from the Imperial Legation in Brussels (1849–1914).

Next to telegrams and periodic diplomatic reports by Ottoman diplomatic agents (dispatches, dépêches) in Brussels and replies and instructions by their superiors in Istanbul, the collection also contains some letters by Ottoman consuls in Belgium and by Ottoman ambassadors or ministers in other European capitals.

The letters are in French and their content is very diverse: reports dealing with Belgian and international society, politics, commerce, industry and finance, but also letters about matters of protocol, or internal issues of the Ottoman Mission.

Originally forming part of Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi (Ottoman Archives of the Prime Minister’s Office) in Istanbul, these documents are made available here for the first time in high-quality photographic reproduction, together with key information for every item (author, recipient, date, place of writing, summary). Currently the database provides access to nearly 1.000 letters, corresponding with more than 3.800 photographs. For a selection of these letters, full transcriptions are already available.

The future ambition is to attract relevant partners, willing to help to expand the website through the addition of series of reports by Ottoman diplomats stationed elsewhere. By this means it is hoped to generate an even bigger open-access database that allows for broader analyses of Ottoman diplomacy and Ottoman-European diplomatic interactions during the long nineteenth century.

2. Disclaimer

This website offers but a selection of dispatches by Ottoman envoys in Belgium. We make no claims to be exhaustive. Not all reports written by the Sultan’s envoys in Brussels became part of the major archival series on Belgium, part of the Ottoman Foreign Ministry Archives. (See Background for more detailed archival references.) Some were archived in other series (in the Yıldız Palace archives, for instance). These are not included here.

Moreover, reports and short notes in Ottoman Turkish have been (almost) systematically left out. Until 1908, these were extremely rare. In the final years before the outbreak of World War I reports in Osmanlıca became more substantial; for this period it is estimated that about ten percent of the total corpus is not in French.

Further, there are some considerable gaps in the archival material made available here. Dispatches for the periods 1849–1858 and 1860–1868 are almost completely lacking. Clearly, these have been filed in other series. We do hope, however, to locate and include these dispatches in a future version of the website.

Lastly, not all attachments to dispatches were included. Mostly they concerned excerpts of newspapers. In case the latter did not come in the format of a newspaper clipping (the full newspaper would be forwarded in such instances), no photographs are available. Envoys occasionally attached parliamentary proceedings from the Belgian Chamber of Representatives. These were left out as well. Sometimes, annexes were simply missing from files.

At times, dates, names and (some of the synopsises too) may contain errors. It is therefore recommended always to double-check the facsimiles of letters.

3. Acknowledgments

Many people have contributed to the Ottoman Diplomats project. First, the Centre for Political History (PoHis) would like to thank the students who participated in the research seminar entitled A Glance at the ‘West’? Ottoman Diplomats to Belgium (1849–1914), taught by Houssine Alloul and Marnix Beyen in 2012–2013. The students produced an inventory of the larger part of the original corpus of diplomatic documents. Without their work and enthusiasm this project would have been impossible. Thanks go to:

Arne Aertbeliën, Bram Claes, Erik De Kuyffer, Andreas Duerloo, Samuel Dunphy, Jeroen Goossens, Margot Cassiers, Tinka Lembrechts, Liesbeth Lemmens, Roel Markey, Thomas Reyntjens, Charlotte Stevens-Desmazières, Jelle Van de Poel, Heleen Van Hecke, Anouk Van Herck, Sam Vermeulen, Simon Verstappen, Tom Vuchelen.

The coordination of this project, and the preparatory work of collecting the archival data in Istanbul was carried out by Houssine Alloul, as part of his broader research project (supervised by Henk de Smaele) on Belgian-Ottoman diplomatic relations. Translations into English of the originally Dutch summaries of the archival documents were made by David Vermeiren. Erol Baykal and Tom Vuchelen provided some translations as well. Karen Lauwers inventoried, and supplemented data for three other archival dossiers. The website was developed and designed by Thomas Crombez (UA).

Funding was generously provided by the Department of History, the Education Commission and the Research Council of the University of Antwerp (UA) and the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO).

4. Contact

Please send your questions and comments to

How to cite

If you use this website for your own research, we kindly ask you to mention the following reference in your publications:

Consulted online at Ottoman Diplomats: Letters From the Imperial Legation in Brussels (1849–1914) (2014 Edition), Centre for Political History (PoHis), University of Antwerp, <>.

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