Public finances: The role of the Ottoman centre

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Abstract

In the post-classical period, the Ottoman central finance department’s primary role changed from supplying the household of the sultan to paying the military forces. The transformation of the army from a force of mounted bowmen with tax assignments (timars) to one of foot-soldiers with firearms moved the major burden of military support from the in-kind to the cash portion of the taxation system and put tremendous demands on the Ottoman budget. Even during the sixteenth century the number of people salaried by the state grew from 41,000 to 91,000, and during the seventeenth century it increased again; in 1630 military wages formed 77 per cent of the Ottoman budget, and in 1670 62.5 per cent. These demands were exacerbated by the price revolution of the sixteenth century and subsequent coinage devaluations. Since the military received quarterly wages, every three months the government had to hand out massive amounts of silver coin. But most taxes were paid on an annual basis, and because of the discrepancy between the solar and lunar calendars, every thirty-three years there was a lunar year in which payments had to be made but no taxes were assessed; in times of financial difficulty the resulting deficits were carried over from year to year. Moreover, many taxes were traditionally paid in kind. In the first half of the seventeenth century the finance department faced and met the challenge of altering the taxation system to a cash basis, although it was not able to solve the deficit problem until the eighteenth century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Turkey: Volume 3 the Later Ottoman Empire, 1603-1839
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages118-132
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9781139054119, 0521620953, 9780521620956
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2006

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

Cite this

Darling, L. T. (2006). Public finances: The role of the Ottoman centre. In The Cambridge History of Turkey: Volume 3 the Later Ottoman Empire, 1603-1839 (pp. 118-132). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521620956.007