This dissertation consists in a microhistorical study of the social and cultural context of slavery in the early modern Ottoman Empire and Eastern Mediterranean. Using a wide selection of primary sources in Arabic, Ottoman, Persian and various European languages, it examines the slave population recorded in the Ottoman shari'a court registers (1560-1572 ?AD) of Galata, a neighbourhood of Istanbul. Based on evidence from the court registers, the origins of the slaves, their rates of religious conversion, and the nature of slave labour in Galata are examined. A detailed analysis of the descriptions of slaves in the court registers and contemporary literature illuminates the cultural construct of slavery in sixteenth-century Istanbul, and it is argued that the contemporary discourses (legal, literary and pseudoscientific) surrounding slavery allow us to reconstruct the Ottoman articulation of difference and sixteenth-century Ottoman understandings of slavery. Furthermore, it is argued that the early modern Ottoman Empire encouraged the manumission and integration of skilled slaves into the urban social hierarchy; the capture and enslavement of skilled individuals, particularly in the context of sixteenth-century Ottoman maritime expansion, disposited as a method of increasing levels of Ottoman manpower and recruiting skilled labour into Ottoman elite households. In addition to presenting empirical findings concerning early modern slavery gathered from the court registers, this dissertation also presents the study of slavery as a framework for analysing the construction of identity in the early modern Mediterranean and argues for a new methodological approach to reading the Ottoman court registers.