Regional variation in the distribution of property rights over land in sixteenth-century Ottoman rural Manisa

Pinar Ceylan, Ghent University, Belgium

The Ottoman State during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is often cited as a centralized state, which closely monitored agricultural production and strictly commanded its organization.

Until today, mainly due to an overemphasis on the role of the central government, regional variations in property and surplus relations in the classical period has largely escaped from attention.

Concentrating on the Western Anatolian district of Manisa and employing tax surveys dating 1575, this study points to the regional variation in property rights institutions, which resulted in different inequality regimes across space. Empirical evidence suggests the existence of two agricultural production systems characterized by different property and surplus relations, in the southern and northern parts of the district in the late sixteenth century.

Accordingly, inequality structures in these areas reflected regionspecific patterns of property rights distribution within and across direct producers and landlords’ classes. In terms of both access to land by producers and concentration of agrarian surplus among landlords, higher levels of inequality is observed in the densely populated, more developed and highly commercialized area in the south, whereas a more egalitarian socioeconomic structure prevailed in the mountainous northern part, inhabited by a high number of tribal groups.

While stressing the necessity of a comparative regional approach in studying rural inequality in pre-industrial societies, these results also lend support to arguments that inequality levels in these societies are positively associated with level of market development and population.

DOI: 10.36253/978-88-5518-053-5.23

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