Slavery continued as an institution in Ottoman Istanbul throughout the 19th century, fuelling the imaginations of artists, writers and liberals in Europe, especially in the 1830s when Europe was about to abolish slavery in its own colonies. But was slavery in Turkey as iniquitous as it was then made out? The historian Christopher Ferrard puts a painting in Edinburgh’s Scottish National Gallery on trial – and finds the claims of one ‘eye-witness’ lacking
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