The year 922/1516-7 is usually treated as an important turning point in the history of Bilād al-Šām. The Ottoman conquest initiated change in various fields which has been the focus of much scholarly attention. However, it is still difficult to understand in what ways the new Ottoman subjects perceived these changes, especially in terms of allegiance to the ruling dynasties. To trace the attitudes of different persons and groups, scholars have often turned to the rich body of contemporary historical writing and used it as a source of information. In this article, which is centred on Ottoman Damascus, I argue that chronicles and biographical collections themselves are important witnesses of change and worth to be studied in their own right. As a step towards a more comprehensive understanding of the social uses of knowledge, I suggest that we need to enquire further into the significance of melancholy and solitude in Ottoman historical writing.