The Transformation of The Ottoman Fiscal Regime, C. 1600 – 1850

Authored by: Michael Ursinus

The Ottoman World

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  December  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415444927
eBook ISBN: 9780203142851
Adobe ISBN: 9781136498954


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At the turn of the seventeenth century the Ottoman empire entered a period of accelerated change which had significant financial, economic, socio-political and, by necessity, fiscal implications. The 250-year span between 1600 and 1850 initially saw a shift away from the centralist policy of the ‘classical’ Ottoman way towards an acknowledgement of the need for the helping hand of the ‘middle man’. There then followed, towards the end of the period, a renewed attempt to ‘cut out the middle man’, seen as someone who had not been slow in holding out his hand to receive or simply to take what he considered he deserved in compensation for his services. This attempt required a retightening of the grip of the centre over the periphery and the establishment of the assertive power of the ‘modern state’ to deal with ‘traditional society’. Both developments gathered momentum under the westernizing and centralizing policies of the mid-nineteenth-century tanzimat (‘reorderings’), particularly from around 1850. In this 250-year period of comprehensive transformation, the Ottoman fiscal regime underwent fundamental change in at least three respects: first, the type and volume of revenue it raised; second, the question of by and for whom revenue was collected; and, third, the fiscal principles on which it was based as time went on. These central aspects of the transformation of the tax-raising system from around 1600 to 1850 will be sketched in broad outline, with detail and contemporary comments drawn from local case studies.

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