A Historiographic Casualty of the Great War: The Ottoman Law of Family Rights (1917) & Pre-Mandate Palestine
In October 1917, when the British colonial army advanced from the Sinai Desert into
Palestine, the Ottoman government in Istanbul promulgated the Law of Family Rights,
followed by a new Law of Procedure for the Sharia Courts. This innovative code was born at an
unfortunate moment. It was neither implemented in the Ottoman domains, nor was it
adopted in its entirety in the post-Ottoman states. In historiography, its fate was even worse.
Historians of the late Ottoman Empire have deemed it either meaningless, due to its late
promulgation and lack of implementation, or an inevitable last nail in the coffin of the
Ottoman sharia court system. In my talk I will maintain that by and large, the historic
significance of the code has been neglected or, at best, misrepresented in historiography.
Iris Agmon is the 2014-Israeli Visiting Scholar at St. Antony's College. She teaches
Ottoman social and socio-legal history at the Department of Middle East Studies in Ben-
Gurion University of the Negev. Her book, Family and Court: Legal Culture and Modernity in
Late Ottoman Palestine, published by Syracuse University Press, explored the transformation
of the Ottoman sharia courts during the 'long nineteenth century' by conducting an in-depth
analysis of two sharia courts in Ottoman Palestine, the courts of the port cities Jaffa and
Haifa. Currently, she is working on a book manuscript dealing with the passage from the
Ottoman to British colonial rule in Palestine from a socio-legal perspective.
Women’s Rights Research Seminars
The Women’s Rights Research Seminars at Oxford was founded in 2009 with the initial aim
of directing interdisciplinary scholarly attention to the legal status of women in Iran. Since
then, the research group has broadened its purview to the rights of women in the Middle
East, covering topics such as the politics of fertility, women in ethnic minorities, and the
treatment of women in states governed and influenced by Islamic law and jurisprudence.
WRRS welcomes seminar and paper proposals from any discipline. Enquiries: Binesh Hass