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The Ottoman Census System and Population, 1831–1914

  • Standford J. Shaw (a1)
Abstract

No problem has perplexed students of modern Ottoman history more than that of determining the state of the empire's population during its last century. Foreign travelers and diplomats and various nationalist leaders claimed that the Ottoman government had no census of its own. They made self-serving estimates of its population to support their own political or diplomatic ambitions, using at best methods such as multiplying by preset figures the number of males found in neighborhood coffeehouses or Sunday religious services, or simply accepting the estimates of local priests. In the face of this, the Ottomans did no more than publish their figures without providing supporting data or bothering to explain their census procedures. As a result, the Ottoman census system and its data were largely ignored in the outside world, and the rough and inaccurate estimates of foreigners were generally accepted in preference to the official figures.

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1 Shaw S. J. and Shaw E. K., History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, vol. II, Reform, Revolution and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey, 1808–1975 (Cambridge, New York, and London, 1977), pp. 4047; Istanbul University Library, TY 8949.

2 5 Safar 1254/30 April 1838, Başvekalet Arşivi (hereafter BVA) Buyuruldu defteri, II, 124.

3 II Safar 1254/6 May 1838, ibid., pp. 114–119.

4 Istanbul University Library, TY 8949; the census of 1844 was partly used by Ubicini A. in Lettres sur la Turquie (Paris, 1853) and by Boré E. in Almanach de l'Empire Ottoman pour l'année 1849 et 1850 (Constantinople, 18491850).

5 BVA, Buyuruldu defteri, II, 125.

6 BVA, Irade Dahiliye 3507; Düstur 1 (Ottoman Code of Public Laws; hereafter Düstur 1) (8 vols.; Istanbul and Ankara, 18631943), I, 201.

7 BVA, Irade, Meclis-i Mahsus, 886, 4976, 1216.

8 Düsturl, I, 608624;Bey G. Aristarchi, Législation ottomane, ou recueil des lois, réglements, ordonnances, traités, capitulations, et autres documents officiels de l'Empire Ottoman (7 vols.; Constantinople, 18731888), II, 273295;Baron Ignatz de Testa et al. , Recueil des traités de la Porte ottoman avec les puissances étrangeres depuis 1536 (11 vols.; Paris, 18641911), VII, 484493;Roderic Davison, Reform in the Ottoman Empire, 1856–1876 (Princeton, 1963), pp. 146151;Takvim-i Vekayi 872 ( şevval 1283/14 02 1867), 894 (5 Cemazi II 1284/4 Oct 1867), 1314 (2 Zilkade 5287/25 Jan 1871), 1376 (14 Rebi II 1288/3 Aug. 1871), 5433 (5 Ramazan 1288/19 Sept. 1871), 1618 (7 Ramazan 5290/30 Oct. 1873), 1623 (16 şevval 5290/7 Nov. 1873), 830 (5 Ramazan 5282/22 Jan. 1866), 837 (3 Zilkade 5282/20 March 1866), 850 (11 Safar 1283/25 July, 1866).

9 The entire dossier for this regulation, including several reports and commentaries that contributed to it, is found in BVA, Irade Meclis-i Mahsus, 2089; the Irade authorizing it was issued on io Rebi II 1295/28 May 1874.

10 Takvim-i Vekayi, 1678 (29 Cemazi II 1291/13 09 1874).

11 Ibid., 1705 (4 Zilhicce 1291/12 Jan. 1875), 1706 (18 Zilhicce 1291/28 Jan. 1875), 1709 (1 Muharrem 1291/18 Feb. 1874).

12 Bolland's report is found in BVA, Yildiz K14 no. 88/20. The Regulation of Population Registration, dated 8 şevval 1298/21 Aug. 1297/3 Sept. 1881, is found in BVA, şurayi Devlet 3148, and BVA, Tanzimat defteri, VII, 97–504; it was published in two zeyils (supplements) to Düstur1, both numbered as zeyil II, in one on pp. 15–24 and in the other on pp. 3–8; and in a separate booklet, along with detailed instructions for carrying it out, as Sicil-i Nufus nizamnamesi (Istanbul, 1300/1882–1883).

13 The census report issued in 1303/1885–1886 is found in the Istanbul University Library, TY 4807.

14 Muhtira-i Hümayun. BVA, Yildiz K9 nos. 2631 and 2632.

15 BVA, Irade Meclis-i Mahsus 3897.

16 Ibid. 4454 (13 Ramazan 1306/13 May 1888), 5356 (17 Safar 1309/23 Sept. 1891).

17 The initial regulation, dated 22 Safar 1318/14 June 1316/21 June 1900, is found in BVA, Irade Kavanin ve Nizamat, 1318 Safar/I900 06 no. I; BVA, Nizamat defteri, IX, 1425; it is printed in the Düstur 1, VII, 433–451. The revised, definitive copy, dated 5 Rebi I 1320/29 May 1318/12 June 1902, is found in BVA, Kavanin ve Nizamat, 1320 Rebi 11/1902 0708, no. I;BVA, Nizamat defteri, IX, 260280; BVA, Yildiz archives K17 no. 47/52; Istanbul University Library, TY 1080, fol. 31a–49b; and it is published in Düstur 1, VII, 864–883; the changes made are indicated in the Irade, dated Rebi I 1320/12 Aug. 1902, found in BVA, Irade Kavanin ye Nizamat 1320 Rebi 11/1902 July–Aug., no. I.

18 Istanbul University Library, TY 947.

19 Tableaux indiquant le nombre des divers éléments de la population dans l'Empire Ottoman au ler Mars 1330 (14 Mars 1914) (Constantinople, 1919);Dahiliye Nezareti, Sicil-i Nüfus Idare-i Umumiyesi Müdüriyeti, Memalik-i Osmaniyenin 1330 seized nüfus Istatistiğ (Istanbul, 1330/1914).

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-middle-east-studies
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