Institute for Mediterranean Studies


At the Crossroads of History, Industry, and Technology: Olive Oil Production in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Late Nineteenth Century

The last twenty years have witnessed an increase in the production of olive oil The last twenty years have witnessed an increase in the production of olive oil in the Mediterranean as a consequence of the campaigns of the International Olive Oil Council. The proposed research aims at bringing forth an original contribution to this dynamic field by adopting a comparative perspective that concentrates on the history of olive oil production in several most important olive and olive oil producing regions of the Eastern Mediterranean. 

The analysis will focus on the factories and mills built in the late nineteenth century in the islands of Crete and Mytilini (in Greece) and the areas of Ayvalık, Edremit, and Izmir, in Turkey. The historical examination of these “factories” aims to go beyond the World-Systems theory that focuses on the industrial decline in this region with the advent of European industrial products. Instead, this research proposes to evaluate the modalities and limits of incorporation into the world economy by concentrating on the production of olive oil in terms of adaptability, complementarity, and rivalry within the economic structure of the period. The interdisciplinary approach at the crossroads of history, economy, and technology will open the way for a more accurate evaluation of the role of industrial and technological developments in the economic life of these regions and their influence on the social life. The comparative dimension integrating different olive oil producing regions of the Eastern Mediterranean will make possible an evaluation of the positions of these regions within the world economic system and the Ottoman central government’s policies to control the economy of these regions. Thus, by focusing on the olive oil production in Eastern Mediterranean, the proposed study aims to bring an original contribution by highlighting the growing role of the inner dynamics of the Eastern Mediterranean in economic transformation.

Cover image: Vincent Van Gogh, "Olive Orchard", mid-June 1889, 72 x 92 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands (F585)

Project Team

Dilek Akyalçın Kaya

Dilek Akyalçın Kaya

Postdoctoral researcher
Curriculum vitae