The Introduction begins with the analysis of two British Consular reports describing the horrific state of Ottoman prisons dated nearly seventy years apart (1851 and 1919). First impressions lead one to conclude that over the course of the massive transformations of the long nineteenth century very little had changed regarding the Ottoman criminal-justice system, particularly within prisons. This conclusion, however, is not accurate. Between the issuance of those two reports a robust penal reform program existed that exemplified the uniqueness of Ottoman modernity and its attempts at nation-state construction. Generally speaking, penal institutions act as effective windows into nation-state construction throughout the world in the modern era. Yet, very little secondary literature exists regarding penal institutions in Islamic societies, particularly for the nineteenth and twentieth century. The Introduction thus critiques the methodological and theoretical approaches to penal institutions in Western scholarship and discusses their applicability to studying the role these institutions played in state reformation and modernity in the late Ottoman Empire.
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