Economic Harbingers of Political Modernization: Peaceful Explosion of Rights in Ottoman Istanbul

45 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2019 Last revised: 22 Jan 2024

See all articles by Asli Cansunar

Asli Cansunar

University of Washington; University of Oxford - Department of Politics and International Relations

Timur Kuran

Duke University - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 8, 2023

Abstract

Although radical institutional reforms usually involve violence, they may be peaceful when they address chronic grievances and enhance advancement opportunities. This claim is substantiated here with reference to the Ottoman Empire’s Gülhane Edict of 1839, which started the formal dismantling of traditional institutions grounded in Islamic law and imperial customs of governance. The Edict was instigated by a new investment instrument and an associated shift in the wealth distribution in favor of politically subordinate Christians. Data sets are drawn from Istanbul’s court records for 1600-1839. They reveal two transformations in financial markets: a fall in the founding of waqfs (Islamic trusts), which were controlled by Muslims, and an explosion in gediks, rudimentary equities owned disproportionately by Christians. Religion- and status-based differences in investment trajectories enable inferences about political preferences in a context where, unlike analogous studies of European milestones, no records exist of parliamentary votes, political negotiations, or shareholder instructions.

Keywords: political modernization, legal reform, redistribution, discrimination, financial innovation, equity market, property rights, religion, Islam, Ottoman Empire

JEL Classification: N2, G10, P50, O1, K40

Suggested Citation

Cansunar, Asli and Kuran, Timur, Economic Harbingers of Political Modernization: Peaceful Explosion of Rights in Ottoman Istanbul (October 8, 2023). Economic Research Initiatives at Duke (ERID) Working Paper No. 288, revised, December 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3434656 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3434656

Asli Cansunar

University of Washington ( email )

Seattle
United States

University of Oxford - Department of Politics and International Relations ( email )

Manor Road
Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

Timur Kuran (Contact Author)

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

213 Social Sciences Building
Box 90097
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

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