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

59 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2019

See all articles by Asli Cansunar

Asli Cansunar

University of Oxford - Nuffield College

Timur Kuran

Duke University - Department of Economics

Date Written: August 8, 2019

Abstract

The modernization drive of the late Ottoman Empire is typically attributed to visionary officials and pressures they faced from foreign powers. This paper ascribes a fundamental role to prior shifts in wealth toward non-Muslims and away from conservative groups, including Muslim clerics. These shifts, all under way in the 1700s, motivated Ottoman political leaders to begin, with the Gülhane Edict of 1839, to dismantle traditional institutions grounded in Islamic law and sultanic customs of governance. Despite its momentous provisions, the edict generated only minor resistance, because it addressed widespread and chronic grievances, legitimated trends unfolding for generations, and offered Muslim political elites, who had been losing ground, opportunities to catch up with rapidly advancing local Christians. The data, which come from Istanbul’s Islamic courts, allow the tracking of changes in the distribution of wealth, as measured by the founding of waqfs (Islamic trusts) and ownership of equities known as gediks.

Keywords: financial innovation, legal reform, discrimination, 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 (August 8, 2019). Economic Research Initiatives at Duke (ERID) Working Paper No. 288, August 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3434656 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3434656

Asli Cansunar

University of Oxford - Nuffield College ( email )

Oxford
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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