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Estimating Rural Incomes and Inequality in the Ottoman Empire

  • Metin M. Coşgel (a1)

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Incomes and inequality in the Ottoman Empire can be estimated from the information recorded in tax registers called tahrir defterleri, arguably the most prized, heavily used, but still underutilized sources of Ottoman history. Although generations of prominent scholars have been fascinated by these registers and numerous historians have used them for a variety of regional and historical studies, their full potential has not been fully utilized in quantitative analysis of questions with a broader comparative dimension, wider geographic coverage, and larger historical significance.

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1 Barkan, Ömer Lütfi, “Research on the Ottoman Fiscal Surveys,” in Studies in the Economic History of the Middle East: From the Rise of Islam to the Present Day, ed. Cook, M. A. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970), 163–71; Coşgel, Metin M., “Ottoman Tax Registers” (Tahrir Defterleri), Historical Methods 37 (2004): 87100.

2 For details of this procedure, see Coşgel, Metin M., “Taxes, Efficiency, and Redistribution: Discriminatory Taxation of Villages in Ottoman Palestine, Southern Syria, and Transjordan in the Sixteenth Century,” Explorations in Economic History 43 (2006): 332–56. For a classification and description of Ottoman tax categories, see also Coşgel, Metin M., “Efficiency and Continuity in Public Finance: The Ottoman System of Taxation,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 37 (2005): 567–86.

3 For a similar procedure used in estimating agricultural productivity, see Cosgel, Metin M., “Agricultural Productivity in the Early Ottoman Empire,” Research in Economic History 24 (2006): 161–87.

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