Abstract

In 1905 the establishment of the International Institute of Agriculture (IIA), the forerunner to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, created a forum for bureaucrats and technocrats from around the globe to exchange information about the latest developments in agricultural practice and administration. Representatives from the Ottoman Empire were active participants in the institute's early activities. This article traces their contributions to the institute's formative debates that aimed to set international standards as well as the imperial-level projects that resulted from their participation. It argues that the institute, in addition to representing a space in which Ottoman officials could assert their expertise and perform their capacity to be a part of global standard-setting processes, provided an impetus for collating and comparing statistics from across the empire. The projects undertaken drew from existing provincial statistics-gathering institutions and served to reveal differences across provinces in a step toward greater empire-wide legibility. Focusing on the empire's Eastern Mediterranean provinces, the article demonstrates how these statistics' public circulation not only enabled Ottoman officials to identify regions they considered ripe for further agricultural development, but also supported French officials' justifications for imposing colonial rule post–World War I.

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