Hostname: page-component-cd4964975-pf4mj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-29T17:23:59.363Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

State formation and urbanization trajectories: state finance in the Ottoman Empire before 1800, as seen from a Dutch perspective*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 November 2009

Wantje Fritschy
Faculty of Arts, History Department, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands E-mail:


Looking at state finance in the Ottoman Empire from a Dutch perspective shows remarkable differences between the two systems. This article suggests that these differences were related to the fact that, in contrast to those in the Ottoman Empire, fiscal systems in western Europe, and especially in the Netherlands, developed within a context of economy-driven rather than state-driven trajectories of urbanization. This gave rise to separate systems of urban public finance, which enhanced possibilities for funding a debt serviced by indirect urban taxes, the root of later state debts. In Ottoman cities, systems of urban public finance managed by urban governments did not develop, thus precluding a similar development.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 P. O’Brien, ‘Historiographical traditions and modern imperatives for the restoration of global history’, Journal of Global History, 1, 1, 2006, pp. 4–5.

2 C. Tilly, ed., The formation of national states in western Europe, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975; P. Mathias and P. O’Brien, ‘Taxation in Britain and France, 1715–1810’, Journal of European Economic History, 5, 1976, pp. 601–50; Tilly, C., Capital, coercion and European states, AD 990–1992, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1992Google Scholar; W. Blockmans and C. Tilly, eds., Cities and the rise of states in Europe, A.D. 1000 to 1800, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994; R. Bonney, ed., Economic systems and state finance: the origins of the modern state in Europe, 13th to 18th centuries, Oxford: Clarendon, 1995; R. Bonney, ed., The rise of the fiscal state in Europe, 1200–1815, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999; R. Bonney, M. Bonney, and W. Ormrod, eds., Crises, revolutions and self-sustained growth: essays in European fiscal history, 1130–1830, Stamford, Lincs: Shaun Tyas, 2000.

3 ‘The formation and efficiency of fiscal states in Europe and Asia, ca. 1500–1913’, conference held in Madrid, 2002; P. O’Brien and B. Yun-Casalilla, eds., The formation and efficiency of fiscal states in Europe and Asia, 1498–1914, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2009; ‘Globalizing the historiography of state formation: comparing trajectories of state formation: the role of values, sociopolitical institutions, and demographic-ecological conditions’, session held at the 123rd Annual Meeting of the AHA, New York, January 2009.

4 Summarized in Anderson, P., Lineages of the absolutist state, London: Verso Editions, 1974, pp. 397–401, 462Google Scholar.

5 L. Darling, ‘Ottoman fiscal administration: decline or adaptation?’, Journal of European Economic History, 26, 1, 1997, pp. 178–9; S. Pamuk, ‘Institutional change and the longevity of the Ottoman Empire, 1500–1800’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 35, 2004, p. 232.

6 M. Genç, cited by Quataert, D. in Inalcik, H., Faroqhi, S., McGowan, B., Quataert, D., and Pamuk, S., An economic and social history of the Ottoman Empire, 2 vols., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 714 (henceforth Economic and social history, with only the relevant author given)Google Scholar.

7 At the end of the eighteenth century, the ‘Generality’ debt was less than 3% of the sum of the debts of the provinces and the ‘Generality’.

8 Instituut voor Nederlandse Geschiedenis, ‘Gewestelijke financien 1572–1795’, (consulted 12 August 2009).

9 Darling, ‘Ottoman fiscal administration’, p. 166.

10 Twenty-two years between 1520 and 1790; for the exact years and the sources, see Figures 1 and 3.

11 M. Genç and Erol Özvar, eds., Osmanlı maliyesi: kurumlar ve bütçeler (Ottoman financial institutions and budgets), 2 vols., Istanbul: Osmanlı Bankası Arsiv ve Arastırma Merkezi (‘Archive and Research Centre of the Ottoman Bank’), 2006; vol. 1 provides comparisons across time for components of revenue and expenditure for twenty-four years between 1653 and 1786; vol. 2 gives all components of revenue and expenditure and totals per year for eleven years between 1509/10 and 1761/2 (see Figure 1). I am grateful to Asim Han and Dr I. Hakkı Kadı for help in consulting the figures in this publication.

12 Sahillioğlu, H., Studies on Ottoman economic and social history, Istanbul: Organization of the Islamic Conference, Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture, 1999, pp. 67, 71Google Scholar.

13 Total revenue in the Imperial Treasury from Egypt in 1798 was nearly 120 million para, the equivalent of just 9.5 tons of silver (Shaw, S., The financial and administrative organization and development of Ottoman Egypt, 1517–1798, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962, pp. 304–5Google Scholar; S. Pamuk, Economic and social history, p. 958). In 1671 it had been 95.8 million para – probably between 52 and 67 tons of silver; the total revenue of the Ottoman Empire in 1669 had been 273 tons of silver.

14 H. Sahillioğlu, ‘1683–1740 Yıllarında osmanlı imparatorluğun hazine gelir ve gider (Yearly revenue and expenditure of the Ottoman Imperial Treasury, 1683–1740)’, in Genç and Özvar, Osmanlı maliyesi, vol. 1, p. 156, table 30.

15 Faroqhi, Economic and social history, p. 536.

16 Oral communication by S. Pamuk, Utrecht, 2008.

17 Faroqhi, Economic and social history, pp. 434–5.

18 McGowan, Economic and social history, p. 670; Quataert, ibid., p. 711.

19 Cited by J. Goldstone, in ‘East and West in the seventeenth century: political crises in Stuart England, Ottoman Turkey and Ming China’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 30, 1991, p. 111n. See also Faroqhi, Economic and social history, pp. 434, 568.

20 C. Issawi, ‘Economic change and urbanization in the Middle East’, in I. Lapidus, ed., Middle Eastern cities, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1969, p. 93; Quataert, D., The Ottoman Empire, 1700–1922, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 114CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 See n. 6 above; for exchange rates, see N. W. Posthumus, Nederlandse prijsgeschiedenis, vol. 1, Leiden: Brill, 1943, pp. 594–625.

22 S. Pamuk, ‘Prices and wages in Istanbul, 1469–1914’, (consulted 12 August 2009); I am grateful to one of the anonymous referees, who suggested that I add this information.

23 de Vries, J. and van der Woude, A., The first modern economy: success, failure and perseverance of the Dutch economy, 1500–1815, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 610–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar, table 12.1: ‘Average wages: Western Netherlands 1500–1815’.

24 S. Pamuk, ‘ Institutional change and the longevity of the Ottoman Empire, 1500–1800’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 35, 2, 2004, p. 243; W. Fritschy, ‘Taxation in Britain, France and the Netherlands in the eighteenth century’, in Economic and social history in the Netherlands, vol. 2, Amsterdam: Nederlands-Economisch Historisch Archief, 1990, p. 64.

25 M. Prak and J. L. van Zanden, ‘Tax morale and citizenship in the Dutch Republic’, in O. Gelderblom, ed., The political economy of the Dutch Republic, Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2009, p. 163.

26 W. Fritschy, ‘Indirect taxes and public debt in the “World of Islam” before 1800’, in S. Cavaciocchi, ed., La fiscalità nell’economia europea secc. XIII–XVIII, Florence: Florence University Press, p. 55, tables 1 and 2.

27 McGowan, Economic and social history, p. 711.

28 Ibid., p. 539.

29 Fritschy, ‘Indirect taxes’, p. 55, tables 1 and 2.

30 Çizakça, M., Comparative evolution of business partnerships: the Islamic world and Europe, with specific reference to the Ottoman archives, Leiden: Brill, 1996, p. 132Google Scholar; Darling, L. T., Revenue-raising and legitimacy: tax collection and the finance department in the Ottoman Empire, 1560–1660, Leiden: Brill, 1996, p. 169Google Scholar; Pamuk, S., A monetary history of the Ottoman Empire, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 85Google Scholar.

31 M. Genç, ‘A study of the feasibility of using eighteenth-century Ottoman financial records as an indicator of economic activity’, in H. Islamoglu-Inan, ed., The Ottoman Empire and the world-economy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987, 360–73.

32 In contrast to western European tax farms, the profits of the tax farmers were known exactly and were part of the information supplied to bidders in the auctions: see Genç, ‘A study’.

33 Cizakça, Comparative evolution, p. 160.

34 This was confirmed to me by I. Hakkı Kadı (e-mail communication, 19 June 2009), based on information supplied to him by Erol Özvar, one of the editors of Osmanlı maliyesi: kurumlar ve bütçeler.

35 For 1696/7: 15,180,900 akçe from a total revenue of 818,188,665 akçe, which would mean 1.8% (Genç and Özvar, Osmanlı maliyesi, vol. 1, p. 194); for 1747: about 400,000 gurush from a total revenue of 13,767,695 gurush, which would mean 2.9% (ibid., vol. 2, p. 324); for 1761: 393,566.5 gurush from a total revenue of 14,514,288.5 gurush, which would mean 2.7% (ibid., vol. 2, p. 370).

36 The total amount invested in muaccele was 12,461,079 gurush according to Çizakça (Comparative evolution, p. 185) and the total amount invested in the esham system was 12,595,000 gurush. Total public revenue in the Ottoman Empire at that time was about 25 million gurush. According to Genç, the profit rate on investments in malikanes at that time was about 17%. If we suppose that the profit rate on esham was about the same, this would mean that, in each year for that period, the state had to give approximately 4,290,000 gurush from the taxes raised in the empire to the malikane and esham owners. This would mean that the percentage of total tax revenue of the state that had to be give to them each year in return for their investment in muacceles and esham was about 15% of total tax revenue.

37 Genç, ‘Eighteenth-century Ottoman financial records’, pp. 361–73.

38 Mitchell, B. and Deane, P., Abstract of British historical statistics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971, pp. 389–91Google Scholar.

39 Braesch, F., Les recettes et les dépenses du trésor pendant l’année 1789 : le compte rendu au roi de mars 1788, Paris: Maison du Livre français, 1936.Google Scholar

40 P. Vries, ‘Governing growth: a comparative analysis of the role of the state in the rise of the West’, Journal of World History, 13, 1, 2002, p. 99, suggested that ‘most sultans … were not short of money’.

41 Darling, ‘Ottoman fiscal administration’, pp. 172–3.

42 Although it should be mentioned that the revenue figure for 1690/1 in the budget was much too low according to Sahillioğlu, ‘1683–1740 Yıllarında osmanlı imparatorluğun hazine gelir ve gideri’, p. 156, and that his correction implied a small surplus instead of a deficit for this year.

43 Inalcik, Economic and social history, pp. 77–8; Salzmann, A., Tocqueville in the Ottoman Empire: rival paths to the modern state, Leiden: Brill, 2004, p. 86Google Scholar.

44 W. Fritschy, ‘A “financial revolution” reconsidered: public finance in Holland during the Dutch Revolt, 1568–1648’, Economic History Review, 56, 1, 2003, pp. 57–89.

45 Çizakça, Comparative evolution, convincingly argues in his last chapter that this was even the case in the nineteenth century.

46 For a recent survey see Hoffman, P. T., Postel-Vinay, G., and Rosenthal, J.-L., Priceless markets: the political economy of credit in Paris, 1660–1870, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000, pp. 14–19Google Scholar; also J. Munro, ‘The usury doctrine and urban public finance in late medieval Flanders (1220–1550)’, in Cavaciocchi, La fiscalità, pp. 973–1026.

47 R. C. Jennings, ‘Loans and credit in early 17th century Ottoman judicial records’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 16, 1973, pp. 168–216; Faroqhi Economic and social history, vol. 2, p. 492: interest rates amounted to between 10% and 20% and ‘no secret was made of the fact that interest was demanded or paid’; many examples can be found in Salzmann, Tocqueville, pp.110–18.

48 S. Pamuk, Monetary history, p. 13.

49 The provisional results of this research on population can be found in M. Bosker, E. Buringh, and J. L. van Zanden, ‘From Baghdad to London: the dynamics of urban growth in Europe and the Arab world, 800–1800’, (consulted 12 August 2009); I am indebted to Jan Luiten van Zanden for informing me of its availability on the internet.

50 Verhulst, A., The rise of cities in north-west Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 142CrossRefGoogle Scholar. B. van Bavel found that, in Holland in 1620, 60% of the land was owned by cities: ‘Rural development and landownership in Holland, c.1400–1650’, in Gelderblom, Political economy, p. 184.

51 W. Blockmans, ‘De vorming van een politieke unie’, in J. Blom and E. Lamberts, eds., Geschiedenis van de Nederlanden, Rijswijk: Nijgh and van Ditmar, n.d. (c.1995), p. 57.

52 Verhulst, Rise of cities.

53 Ibid., p. 152.

54 Blockmans, ‘De vorming’, pp. 50–2.

55 J. Tracy, ‘On the dual origins of long-term urban debt in medieval Europe’, in M. Boone, K. Davids, and P. Janssens, eds., Urban public debts, Turnhout: Brepols, 2003, pp. 16–17.

56 M. Sanchez Martines, ‘Dette publique, autorités princières et villes dans les Pays de la Couronne d’Aragon’, in Boone, Davids, and Janssens, Urban public debts, pp. 37, 42.

57 Tracy, J., A financial revolution in the Habsburg Netherlands: renten and renteniers in the County of Holland, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1985, pp. 87–8Google Scholar.

58 Tracy, ‘Dual origins’, p. 20.

59 Zuijderduijn, C. J., Medieval capital markets: markets for renten between state formation and private investment in Holland (1300–1550), Leiden: Brill, 2009, pp. 172–4Google Scholar; idem, ‘ “Het lichaam van het dorp”: publieke schuld op het Hollandse platteland rond 1500’, Tijdschrift voor Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis, 5, 4, 2008, p. 116.

60 Dickson, P. G. M., The financial revolution in England: a study in the development of public credit, London: MacMillan, 1967.Google Scholar

61 Sicking, L., Zeemacht en onmacht: maritieme politiek in de Nederlanden, 1488–1558, Amsterdam: De Bataafsche Leeuw, 1998.Google Scholar

62 R. van Schaik, ‘The sale of annuities and financial politics in a town in the Eastern Netherlands, Zutphen, 1400–1600’, in Boone, Davids, and Janssens, Urban public debts, p. 110.

63 Blockmans, ‘De vorming’, pp. 81–3.

64 Fritschy, ‘A “financial revolution” reconsidered’.

65 Bosker, Buringh, and van Zanden, ‘From Baghdad to London’.

66 Wittek, P., The rise of the Ottoman Empire, London: Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1958, pp. 16–35, 40–8Google Scholar; Inalcik, Economic and social history, p. 29.

67 Inalcik, Economic and social history, p. 11.

68 Ibid., pp. 15, 17, 150.

69 S. Faroqhi, ‘Taxation and urban activities in sixteenth century Anatolia’, Journal of Turkish Studies, 1, 1, 1979/80, p. 19, mentions studies by Ö. Barkan et al. on the forced transplantations of population known as sürgün. See also F. Acun, ‘A portrait of the Ottoman cities’, Muslim World, 92, 2002, p. 263; further examples can be found in Leo Africanus for Morocco in the sixteenth century.

70 Inalcik, Economic and social history, p. 32.

71 Inalcik, Economic and social history, p. 18.

72 Acun, ‘Portrait of the Ottoman cities’, pp. 262–3; K. Hayashi, ‘Turkey’, in M. Haneda, ed., Islamic urban studies: historical review and perspective, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, p. 194.

73 Inalcik, Economic and social history, pp. 161, 165.

74 Faroqhi, Economic and social history, p. 441.

75 S. Pamuk, Monetary history, p. 20.

76 Inalcik, Economic and social history, p. 32.

77 Hayashi, ‘Turkey’, p. 195.

78 Traian Stoianovich, ‘Cities, capital accumulation and the Ottoman Balkan command economy, 1500–1800’, in Blockmans and Tilly, Cities, pp. 60–99.

79 M. Genç, ‘The role of the state in the private capital accumulation in Ottoman economy before the nineteenth century’, unpublished paper for a colloquium at Leiden University, 3 December 2008, based on his Turkish publications.

80 A. Raymond, ‘The management of the city’, in S. K. Jayyusi, R. Holod, A. Petruccioli, and A. Raymond, eds., The city in the Islamic world, Leiden: Brill, 2008, p. 792.

81 Ibid., p. 775.

82 R. le Tourneau, Fès avant le Protectorat, Casablanca: SMLE, 1949, pp. 211–14 and p. 259, says that these three functions in Fez in Morocco were still similar to those of Damascus in the fourteenth century.

83 Shaw, Financial and administrative organization.

84 Lapidus, I., Muslim cities in the later Middle Ages, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967, p. 186: ‘Muslim cities were no “body politic”’Google Scholar.

85 Prak and van Zanden, ‘Tax morale’, p. 163; I am grateful to the anonymous referee who suggested that I should include this article in my discussion.

86 Darling, ‘Ottoman fiscal administration’, p. 174.

87 The high percentage of direct taxes in 1747 had been due to widespread tax revolts and the temporary replacement of most of the indirect taxes by a direct tax during that year. The high percentages in 1788 and 1793/4 were the results of forced loans in Holland; a large part of the first was used to save the Dutch East India Company after extensive losses during the Fourth English Naval War.

88 M. Kisaichi, ‘The Maghrib’, in M. Haneda and T. Miura, eds., Islamic urban studies: historical review and perspectives, London: Kegan Paul International, 1994, p. 42.

89 Ibid., p. 38.

90 Inalcik, Economic and social history, p. 202.

91 Fritschy, ‘Indirect taxes’, p. 74.

92 Clay, C., Gold for the sultan: Western bankers and Ottoman finance 1856–1881: a contribution to Ottoman and to international financial history, London: I.B. Tauris, 2000.Google Scholar