This article offers an approach to Ottoman urban history that puts boundaries at the focus of attention. It serves as an introduction to four case studies exploring social, communal and political boundaries in different Ottoman cities from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century. Our understanding of boundaries rests on a theoretical approach that considers urban space as a collection of socially constructed territories whose boundaries have important functions that serve to structure urban life. From a long-term perspective boundaries can also serve as a heuristic tool to examine the transition from the Ottoman to the post-Ottoman period and its effects on urban environments. In conclusion, the article explores in how far Ottoman urban boundaries in their various transformations can explain present-day urban situations.
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