US mercenary encounters with the Ottoman world, 1805-1882
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This dissertation examines nineteenth-century US mercenary encounters with the Ottoman world, including cases in which the United States employed American and foreign mercenaries for work in the Ottoman world and others in which Americans were employed as mercenaries by Ottoman regional governments. These mercenaries are often treated as historical footnotes, yet their encounters with the Ottoman world contributed to US culture and the texts they left behind continue to influence approaches to Africa and the Middle East. My analysis of these mercenary encounters and their legacies begins with the Battle of Derna in 1805—in which the US flag was raised above a battlefield for the first time outside of North America with the help of a mercenary army—and concludes with the British occupation of Egypt in 1882—which was witnessed by many of the US Civil War veterans who worked as mercenaries for the Egyptian government in the 1870s and 1880s. In four complementary case studies, I bring together sources that have been isolated from one another or never examined at length, including State Department documents, historic newspapers, first-person narratives, historiographical accounts, and—in terms of the contemporary resonance of the encounters I examine—films and documentary media. By focusing mercenary encounters in the Ottoman world through the lenses of memory, sovereignty, geography, and diplomacy, I reveal the ways in which mercenarism, while marginal in terms of its frequency and scope, produced important knowledge about the Ottoman world and helped to establish the complicated balance between intimacy and mastery that exists between Americans in the United States and people in Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, South Sudan, and Turkey. I argue that mercenaries were significant tools of the state when other options were unavailable and that US imperialism in Africa and the Middle East—which still depends on mercenarism—is deeply rooted in nineteenth-century mercenary practices. My conclusions further trouble the distinction between legitimate state actors and mere soldiers of fortune that has been used to help draw the line between lawful and unlawful combatants in warfare, a foundational, yet extraordinarily fraught, component of international law.