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«February 2020»

Ecology of Religious Shift in the Ottoman Mountains: Long-term Environmental Changes, Social Transformations and Conversion to Islam in the Nevrokop District, 15th – 18th C

This project aims to challenge the historiographic concept of mass conversion to Islam in the Nevrоkop region by transposing the historical analyses on the human-natural interconnection as a key feature of the Rhodope Mountains past during the Early Modern period. Combining a variety of written archival and natural records its multidisciplinary approach associate this research with the emerging field of Ottoman Environmental History. The focus of the study is centred on the process of overpopulation in the Early Modern mountains and how it defines the mutual relation of both social and environmental changes in a specific Balkan area of Nevrokop (mod. Gotse Delchev, Bulgaria). The dynamics of settlement network and the organization of rural economy is going to trace the sweeping ecological transformations during the human conquest of the studied highlands. Moreover the high quality quantitative and qualitative data will reveal the whole range of demographic adaptations to the harsh mountainous space such as migrations, birth control and mortality and how did they influence the conversion to Islam. Only such deep analyses of human-natural co-relation has the potential to provide an accurate explanation on the religious shift in the Rhodope Mountains, i.e. how from Christian Nevrokop area became a Muslim cultural space.

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