The British Association for Islamic Studies (BRAIS) is delighted to announce the outcome of the 2023 BRAIS Prize in the Study of Islam and the Muslim World.

The winner of the BRAIS 2023 Prize is:

Naz Yücel
George Washington University
'Sustaining the Empire: Transformation of Property Regime in the Late Ottoman Empire, 1876-1913'
Author's Summary
My dissertation, Sustaining the Empire: Transformation of Property Regime in the Late Ottoman Empire, 1876-1913, is a discussion of the co-constitutive role of capital and law in the Ottoman Empire from the 1870s to 1914. I scrutinize budgets, financial registers, legal texts, state correspondence, parliamentary records, and memoirs, alongside visual legal sources such as title-deeds and property maps. I argue that the monarchs’ transformation into private economic actors in the age of capitalism has remained overlooked in the larger discussions on modern state, imperialism, or colonialism. Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876-1909) established a new property regime, or a new set of dynamics related to the distribution of rights over property both for the Sultan and his subjects who were inhabitants of his estates, as a new form of governance. This dissertation intervenes in the preexisting literature on capitalism in the Ottoman Empire in two ways: first, I highlight how Sultan Abdülhamid II, as a private individual, relied on a range of methods associated with capitalism in the late nineteenth century. Second, this dissertation understands capitalism in relation to Ottoman law and institutions. What makes Abdülhamid II unique is how he used the Ottoman legal system and his transformation’s inherent connections with Ottoman Empire’s sustenance at the turn of the twentieth century.

My research shows that sustenance of the late Ottoman Empire, under territorial threats and pressure from foreign financial creditors, hinged on Abdülhamid II’s transformation into a tax-exempt private property and concessions owner. As a case study, I focus on Hamidian estates in the province of Basra and quantitatively demonstrate this property regime’s profitability for the Sultan at the expense of his subjects. I discuss the societal stratification caused by this policy’s imposition in Basra as well as the Sultan’s exploitation of his subjects’ labor as their landowner. Lastly, I scrutinize this policy’s dismantlement after the reinstitution of the 1876 Ottoman Constitution as a discussion of the economic underpinnings of the 1908 Ottoman constitutional revolution. Institutions, even the ones such as the Ottoman monarchy that lasted over 600 years, have financial underpinnings that ultimately help reproduce them. My research is therefore a broader call to reconsider the associated costs of sustenance of the systems that historically have existed as well as to question who differentially carried such costs and to what extent in regional, imperial, and global scales.


2023 Honorable Mentions


Dominik Krell

(Universität Hamburg)

'Islamic Law in Saudi Arabia: Concepts, Practices and Developments'


Meia Walravens

(University of Antwerp)

‘Networked Diplomacy: Maḥmūd Gāwān’s Bahmani Sultanate and the Fifteenth-century Islamic World'


BRAIS received a large volume of exceptional submissions for the 2023 Prize. We thank everyone who submitted a manuscript and all those who provided references for applicants. We would also like to offer our profound thanks to the many reviewers across the world who gave of their time so generously and our Prize Committee who had the very difficult task of selecting our winner and honorable mentions. 

Very many congratulations to our winner, Dr Yücel, and our two honorable mentions Dr Krell and Dr Walravens. These were three truly exceptional studies.