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Ottoman Empire

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Ottoman Empire 1683.png

The Ottoman Empire (Ottoman Turkish: دولتْ علیّه عثمانیّه Devlet-i Âliye-yi Osmâniyye,[2] Modern Turkish: Osmanlı İmparatorluğu or Osmanlı Devleti), was an empire that lasted from 1299 to 1923. It was succeeded by the Republic of Turkey in 1923. At the height of its power (16th–17th century), it controlled much of Southeastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

Beginning with a small principality on the Byzantine frontier around the year 1300, the Ottomans managed to build a vast empire by the mid-sixteenth century. The empire spanned the area between the Crimea in the north to Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula in the south, and between the Persian Gulf in the east to central Europe and North Africa in the west.[2]

Ottoman Tax Registers[edit | edit source]

The Ottoman government obtained information on the empire's sources of revenue through periodical tax registers called tahrir defterleri. These registers include information about the taxpaying subjects and taxable resources, making it possible to study the economic and social history of the Middle East and eastern Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Tax registers have survived as early as the fifteenth century. They are available to researchers in various archives in Turkey and other countries once under Ottoman domination. Few historical records are as rich, extensive, well-preserved, and widely available as these tax registers are.

The tahrir defters were vital to the financial administration of the lands governed by the Ottoman Empire and were used for a variety of purposes: they served as official registers to establish legal claims to land, to access the empire's expected tax revenues, and to appropriate some of the revenues to the military and administrative officials as remuneration for their services. Because of their value to the empire, the Ottoman government took great care to preserve the defters; over 1,500 of them have survived to the present.

The detailed tax registers in the series, called mufassal defters, recorded for each fiscal unit the names, numbers, and legal status of adult males, approximate amounts of land in use, and estimates of tax revenues from all productive resources and activities. In short, the registers contain detailed information about taxpayers and economic activities in Ottoman towns and villages. The Ottoman government was concerned primarily with taxation, so enumerators typically recorded only taxpaying adult males, omitting women, children, and tax-exempt groups.

To learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of using Ottoman tax registers, see: Coşgel, Metin M. "Ottoman Tax Registers (Tahrir Defterleri) Historical Methods 37 no. 2 (Spring 2004): 87-99.[3]

"Tezkire-i Osmaniye" Personal Identification Documents[edit | edit source]

These identification documents were issued starting in 1863 and were written in Ottoman Turkish. An example and translation of a personal identification document is found here.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Ottoman Empire" in Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 3 May 2009).
  2. Coşgel, Metin M. "Ottoman Tax Registers (Tahrir Defterleri) Historical Methods 37 no. 2 (Spring 2004): 87-99.
  3. Coşgel, Metin M. "Ottoman Tax Registers (Tahrir Defterleri) Historical Methods 37 no. 2 (Spring 2004): 87-99.