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Socioeconomics of the Ottoman enlargement era


Socioeconomics of the Ottoman enlargement era

This article covers the socio-political history of Ottoman Empire beginning from its establishment to the reformation efforts of Selim III.

Prior to the Siege of Vienna (1529), Ottoman Empire was not subjected to regular diplomatic customs, nor was it recognizing the right to existence of the Christian states, which were considered tolerated enemies. The Vienna failure starts a process of medievalisation of the Ottoman state, as the Muslim faith is gradually replaced by financial and civil contracts in all the aspects (external relations, army recruiting, state organization etc.)


  • Economy 1
  • Social structure 2
  • Administration 3
  • Education 4
  • Taxation 5


Areas of economic surplus, above self-sustaining bases, were few in relation to the area under Ottoman rule. Such areas focused around an urban centre surrounded by well tilled arable farmland. Populations and population density was huge where substantial rural to urban migration had occurred; famine, conflict and extortion from tax-farms being the main stimulus for this. Cities, as in Europe, were the focuses of manufacture and trade. Ottoman cites had a large out put of goods, where comprehensive guild systems maintained quality at the expense of competition. However, the main source of Ottoman wealth came from less industry reliant goods and raw materials, mainly items from the east such as silk and gems; also the passage of such goods generated revenue due effective taxing measures. In comparison to its neighbours, the Ottoman Empire was immensely wealthy.

With the turn of 17th century, economic difficulties show their signs. Dutch and British Empires closed the international trade routes that pass through the Middle East. The empire begin to shift resources as a result of decline in the economy of the Middle Eastern provinces. This is also reflected in an increasing imbalance of trade between East and West.

The economical problems are reflected on the coins with the decreasing amounts of gold and silver ratios, inflation. Also influx of precious metals into Europe from the Americas had played a role in the price increases of the late 16th century in the Ottoman Empire. Traditional industries and trades, which depend on stable economy, had a big hit with the increasing inflation. The guilds were unable to provide quality goods in competing with the cheap European manufactured goods. Functioning under strict price regulations to keep the state functioning also had a negative effect on the local economy with wide open borders of the empire without restriction because of the Capitulations agreements.

Social structure

Social structure had remained stereotypically feudal. A religious establishment had helped to sustain this and resulted in most official posts, legislations and culture moreover being heavily influenced by the prolific Islamic councils and having strong outwards signs of Islam.


Many official posts required active or previous military experience; Grand Viziers, the equivalent chief ministers of other contemporary nations, often commanded the army in person. Such a social and administrative structure, however, remained effective and efficient in conducting foreign policy, gains in Europe being evidence for this.


The madrasas, the primary education centres of the empire, had staunchly religious doctrines and acted as an expresser of the contemporary Muslim world view. Also, foreign policy, at least with relation to European states, was highly religiously motivated; geared towards Jihad against the infidel and was thus highly pre-emptive, a foreign policy common to earlier European feudal states.


The taxes were 2.5 percent for Muslims (zakat) and 1.5 percent for non-Muslims (jizya) each year, it was only the

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