Muallim Cevdet

Kütüphaneci, Eğitimci, Tarihçi

07 Mayıs, 1883
Daralmuallimin-i Aliye (Male Teacher Training School)
Diğer İsimler
Mehmed Cevdet İnançalp (asıl adı)

Educationalist, librarian, founder of Turkish archival science, historian (B. 7th May 1883, Bolu – D. 1935, Istanbul). His real name was Mehmed Cevdet. He adopted the surname "İnançalp" when the Surname Law was adopted. He was the son of Mehmet Sadi Efendi, an officer of foundations. His grandfather, Said Efendi, was a sheikh of a lodge in Niş. His family migrated to Bolu during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 (‘93 War). He went to elementary and secondary school in Bolu, and high school in Kastamonu. Then he went to Istanbul Law School for some time while taking Arabic lessons in Beyazid II Mosque. Upon the death of his father, he had to quit law school in his third year. Later, he graduated from the boarding school of Daralmuallimin-i Aliye (Male Teacher Training School) with a first grade degree. He learnt Arabic, Persian, French and German on his own. He taught at private schools such as Darüşşafaka Association, Robert College and Şemsülmekâtib.

His father had a huge impact on his upbringing. His teacher from the Kastamonu High School, İsmâil Mâhir Efendi, got his attention to different fields like Sufism and philosophy. Among his teachers who affected Muallim Cevdet were Halis Efendi of Dagestan, Hakkı Pasha, Mehmet Esat Efendi and his French teacher Mehmet Galip Bey. He took Ahmet Tevhid Bey into account a lot in his studies on history. He owed his ability to balance the West and the East to İkdamcı Ahmet Cevdet's articles. On top of all, he was a rare person in that he improved himself with his hardworking personality and his desire to learn. Thanks to his knowledge, he was of interest to the enlightened environments of his time, and led an intellectual society. He combined Abdülaziz Mecdi Efendi's conversations on Sufism with his own studies, thus being a significant advocate of Islamic religion and culture.

He went to Azerbaijan on the invitation of Baku Islamic Community in 1907. In Baku, he became the principal and a teacher at Füyûzât, a teachers' school, of which he initiated the establishment. Via this school, he served the Turkish-Islamic education, and learned Russian and Latin there. He wrote articles on Ahmet Ağaoğlu's newspaper on Turkish nationalism and gave conferences. With these works, he helped Azerbaijan Turks to be awakened as well as eliminating religious and political conflicts. Meanwhile, he went to Moscow to see the famous writer Leo Tolstoy. When he was doing researches on pedagogy (science of education) and history in Russia, he was deported by the Russian government, and he returned to Istanbul in 1908.

He taught at different schools during the Second Constitutional Era. But his desire to learn led him to Europe this time. He went to university in Geneva with his own means, and attended bringing-up classes in the pedagogy department in 1909. Then he went to Paris where he would stay for four months. He took pedagogy, history and philosophy classes in Collège de France while attending the conferences of sociologist Emile Durkheim, and studied the lectures of Henry Bergson. He returned to Istanbul in the late 1910. He continued teaching at different schools until 1931. He taught pedagogy and sociology at Darülmuallimin; Turkish literature and history at Robert College; religion classes at İstanbul Erkek High School in 1925; Persian at Erenköy Kız High School; history and geography at İstanbul Erkek Öğretmen School and Gelenbevi Secondary School. Because he was working very actively during these years, he became to known as "Muallim Cevdet" (T.N. Cevdet the Teacher).

But, since he changed his job frequently without a cause, this deteriorated his health. He got sick due to stress, and was not able continue his lectures for two years. When his medical report of rest expired, he was appointed as the president to Prime Ministry's History Papers Review Board and Istanbul Libraries Classification Board. He quit teaching in 1931 due to severe health problems. He continued as the president at History Papers Review Board for three months during his sickness, but could continue no more. His salary was cut, and he was terminated from his job. His sickness progressed, and he died in 1935 in Istanbul at the age of 52. He was buried in Edirnekapı Cemetery near the grave of Babanzâde Ahmet Naim on his will.

Muallim Cevdet never married, but dedicated his life and earnings to books and his job. He was an absolute easterner, but he was familiar with both Eastern and Western cultures. He studied the works of many great thinkers, and was inspired by them. He was also quite nationalist and religious. During his job at the Robert College, he opposed against Turk and Muslim students being taken to the church to teach them Christian religious rituals and prays. He prevented Muslim students from going to the church. He taught them religious, ethical and historical lessons himself.

His greatest contribution to our cultural heritage is that he laid the foundations of Turkish archival science. Documents of Cevdet Paşa Library in particular, as well as Hagia Sophia, Register Office, Foundations, Revenue Board, Scholarship, Admiralty, Arsenal, Court, Board of Education, Prime Ministry and Foreign Affairs documents were arranged and set by him. He organized 216.572 documents from 1553 to 1904 under seventeen different tittles, and this process is known as the "Classification of Cevdet" in the Ottoman archives (Prime Ministry Ottoman Archives, p. 396-397).

Barely known, but one of our most important intellectuals, Muallim Cevdet is accepted as the founder of Turkish archival science; because he created an awareness of the value of historic documents within the Turkish Republic with his writings and lectures. Muallim Cevdet led the committee researching books, maps and sketches in the Topkapı Palace Library. He advocated the value of historic documents for his entire life. When he heard that 400 crates of documents in the Department of the Treasury of Istanbul Revenue Office were to be sold to Bulgaria, he immediately took action to stop the selling by writing to Prime Minister İsmet İnönü, Türk Tarih Kurumu (T.N. Turkish Historical Society) and Bulgaria Turks Association. Only 51 sacks of documents could be retrieved out of the 200 gone. The perseverance, determination and moral courage of Muallim Cevdet led to the adoption of a regulation enforcing the preservation of historic documents (1934).

Another service of his was to donate his rich library. He left 11.000 volumes of books in different languages, including manuscripts. Today, these books constitute one of the richest sections in Istanbul Metropolitan Municipal Library.


Zamanımızda Usul-i İnşa ve Muhabere (1925), Şehname (1928), Askeri Din Dersleri (1928), Spor Ruhu (1928), İbn-i Batuta’ya Zeyl (1932), Müderris Ahmed Naim (1935), Tarihi Sözlük (only six packs of sixteen paged sheets were published), Mektep ve Medrese (Makaleler, 1978). 

REFERENCE: A. Süheyl Ünver / Muallim Cevdet Haya­tı ve Eserleri 1883-1935 (1936),  İbrahim Alaeddin Gövsa / Türk Meşhurları (1946), Adnan Ötügen / “Muallim M. Cevdet’in Yazmaların Tasnifi Hakkında Mühim Bir Raporu” (Türk Kütüphaneciler Derneği Bülteni, 111/2, 1955), Zeki Velidî Togan / Hatıralar (s. 603-606, 1969), Bulgaristan’a Satılan Evrak ve Cumhuriyet Dönemi Arşiv Çalışma­ları (Haz: Mehmet Torunlar - Erol Çelik, 1993), Dursun Gürlek / Biricik Kitap Kurdu Muallim Cevdet (Kültür Dünyası, sayı: 10, 1998), H. Ahmet Güner Sayar / “Muallim Cevdet” (TDV İslam Ansiklopedisi, c. 30, s. 313-314, 2005). İhsan Işık / Yazarlar Sözlüğü (1990, 1998) - Türkiye Yazarlar Ansiklopedisi (2001, 2004) – Encyclopedia of Turkish Authors (2005) - Resimli ve Metin Örnekli Türkiye Edebiyatçılar ve Kültür Adamları Ansiklopedisi (2006, gen. 2. bas. 2007) – Ünlü Bilim Adamları (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 2, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013). 


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