Law and Society in Ottoman Iraq: The Case of the Buried Treasure (1856)
Barrett, Elizabeth Page
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As in all legal disputes, there are many versions of this story. One party claims the other broke a contract by failing to pay off a debt. The other argues the contract was never legally binding and he was coerced into signing it in the first place. This may sound like a fairly pedestrian civil case. However, Svoboda v. Pachachi (1856) was beyond unusual—it was a scandal that titillated ‘Victorian Baghdad’; it embodied the clash between European colonial ambitions and Ottoman sovereignty; it is a story about a fortune in buried treasure. Most importantly, it offers historians insight into provincial legal practices in the midst of the upheaval of the Tanzimat reforms.