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Land ownership, tax farming and the social structure of local credit markets in the Ottoman Balkans, 1685–1855

  • Irfan Kokdas (a1)

This article studies how the emergence of new political elites and changes in land tenure relationships shaped the socio-economic profile of local credit markets in the Ottoman Balkans between the late seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries. By using probate inventories and court records for the cities of Salonika (including Karaferye), Vidin and Ruse, I compare how the expansion of tax-farming institutions and the concentration of land ownership influenced the social characteristics of lending activities. I find that, in spite of institutional and political similarities, the evolution of local credit markets did not follow a homogeneous pattern. Contrary to the consensus view in the existing literature, local political and military elites, which most tax farmers and large landowners belonged to, did not play a dominant role as moneylenders. Civilians (such as merchants and artisans) together with other social groups, including janissaries and religious functionaries, provided the bulk of informal credit to local communities (including elites) in the three urban areas.

Corresponding author
Irfan Kokdas, Department of History, Izmir Kâtip Çelebi University, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Izmir-35630, Turkey; email:
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This article is partially based on the findings of my PhD dissertation. I gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the State University of New York at Binghamton, Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte-Mainz and Forschungsbibliothek Erfurt/Gotha for my research project. I am also grateful to two anonymous referees and the guest editors of this special issue for their helpful comments and suggestions on previous drafts of this paper. The usual disclaimer applies.

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