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Congratulations to Dr. Fredrick Walter Lorenz on winning the 2022 Lifka Prize
January 17, 2023

Dr. Fredrick Walter Lorenz was awarded the 2022 Lifka Prize by the Department of History for his innovative dissertation “An Empire of Frontiers: Between Migrant and State in the Late Ottoman Empire, 1835-1911”. A meticulously researched intervention into the existing historiography of the Middle East and North Africa, Lorenz’s work is a wide-ranging history of Ottoman Libya in the period of high imperialism.

 

The History Department Thesis Prize Committee has decided to award the Lifka Prize for 2022 to F. Walter Lorenz’s innovative dissertation “An Empire of Frontiers: Between Migrant and State in the Late Ottoman Empire, 1835-1911”. A meticulously researched intervention into the existing historiography of the Middle East and North Africa, Lorenz’s work is a wide-ranging history of Ottoman Libya in the period of high imperialism. Under a renewed period of direct Ottoman governance from 1835 to 1911, the region became an important bridgehead to Africa from the Mediterranean imperial world. Introducing the novel concept of “Ottoman settlerism”, this dissertation discusses the displacement of indigenous Libyan populations and the settlement of Muslim muhacir (migrants-refugees-exiles) from across the empire.

  

Conceptually, his work stands at the intersection between empire, migration, colonization, and global economic history. Lorenz describes how Ottoman officials developed settlerism through a set of visions that saw the region of the Jabal al-Akhdar (between Benghazi and Derna) as a fertile space of centralization, security, and agriculture. In the area, Ottoman agrarian and infrastructural developments looked to construct a “second Egypt” rivaling other imperial powers while relying on autochthonous policy. Responding to Ottoman imperial needs, authorities in Istanbul, Tripoli, and Benghazi looked to refugees-turned-settlers as a way to reconfigure the empire’s position vis-à-vis other Great Powers.

  

The breadth of Lorenz’s scholarly work is impressive. He consults sources in six languages and archives in four countries, supplemented by period newspapers, diplomatic correspondence, memoirs, travelogues, and a wide variety of secondary material. Importantly, Lorenz’s dissertation is not merely a historicist exercise – rather, it holds contemporary significance in the context of Turkey’s intervention in Libya’s ongoing civil war. “An Empire of Frontiers” is an important corrective which testifies to the need for careful historical reading of the roots of present-day questions.