Turkish Economic History

It is impossible to isolate the History of Turkish Economics from the General Economic History, for the Economic History ahs formed within the frame of certain interaction. All the same, we shall here endeavour to study the issue only from the aspect of Turkey.

We cannot limit ourselves to the Theory of Economics in the research of the Economic History of Turkey. Moreover, in consideration of the economic data gained in the course of such a long period of time as is expressed in millenniums we back intentions to form economic theories peculiar to Turkey. This being the case, our purpose is to make the economics of the near past related to the millenniums of Turkey.

In early XXth century historical studies based upon documents started in Turkey at nearly the same time as the West, the Committee of the History of the Ottoman State (Anjuman Al-Tarih Al-Uthmani) was established and magazines began to be published. In magazines like Ulum al-Iqtisadiyyah wa Ijtima'iyyah we could see essays on the Economic History. Nevertheless, it cannot be said that this attempt is carried on. Therefore, not only historical researches have fallen behind, but also - related thereto - social sciences failed to quit bearing the quality of translations and to originate from the realities of Turkey; or - in optimistic words - they did not go further than being imitations and adaptations.

The Economic History began to be taught in Turkey at the Commercial Academy of Hamidiyyah, which was the nucleus of Marmara University. Later, with the establishment of the Faculty of Economics at Istanbul University in 1936, it began to be taught at this faculty by Kessler and Rustov, who belonged to German Historian School.

According to Kessler, economics is in close relationship with the cultures of those people that are occupied with economic transactions - that is ethics, jurisdiction, political order, military organization, technology and scientific intelligence. In fact, the Economic History is also a sub-section of the History of Society and Culture. Again, there cannot be a general Economic History that shows the same phases for all the human societies. There could only be separate economic histories for every country, for every human group, for every sector, for every state, for every city or even village, for every nation and race. There are no general development laws in the Economic History valid for the whole world. To the contrary, economics varies and continues to acquire diverse features in future according to the natural circumstance of the place and man as well as the will, morals, techniques and culture of man.

Again, to him, the development view that played a great role in the natural sciences of the XEXth century may not be applied to the Economic History. In the Economic History one could make mention of transformations and modifications in place of progress. Yet one could make mention not of regular and factual developments but of attempts, errors, inertia, irregularities, and finally of new efforts. These changes usually take place gradually and no sudden leaps or collapses occur. Still, in most cases, former economic forms maintain their entity along with the new ones. After Kessler, Omer Liitfi Barkan began to give the lectures on the Economic History at this faculty.

As sources, those books moving from archaeological findings for the early ages and annals, logbooks and books on general history for the later ages may draw a frame for us. Nevertheless, documents are really important, in examples whereof we could mention tax books, census books, the books of Muhimmah which include official letters, financial records, registers of qadis (judges), the accounts of the treasury, budgets, the expenditure books of the Palace and Poorhouses, the accounts of endowments, Waqfiyyahs (Deeds of Trust of pious foundations) and Books of Qassam that include the records of inheritance.

The aforementioned documents are found at the Prime Ministerial Ottoman Archives in Istanbul, at Topkapi Palace Archives, at the Archives of the Mufti's Office in Istanbul, at the Archives of Shar'iyyah Records at several museums, at the Archives of Title Deed Cadastre General Management and at the Archives of the General Management of Endowments in Ankara, at the Military Archives of History and at the archives of several institutions.

Of these, the Prime Ministerial Ottoman Archives is the main archives not only of Turkey but also the 27 states that were founded in the lands of the Ottoman State after the fall of the Ottoman State, viz. in the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa. For the Ottoman State, the archives of those foreign states the Ottoman State was in relation with bear significance as well. There exist a vast number of documents concerning the Ottoman Economic History in the archives of Italy, Australia, Russia, France, Holland and England.

The Ottoman archives documents reflect will and ability of the bureaucracy of this great central state, which was organized in a systematic way, in governing peoples whose religions, languages and cultures were different for 600 years in a stable and just manner. That the decrees adopted in the Ottoman bureaucracy were interactive was the essential factor in ensuring the inter-institutional flow of information and the protection of written documents. Commensurate to the growth and complexity of the bureaucracy with the attainment of new factors the written documents formed an enormous archive. We know that some of these documents have lost or passed into the possession of other countries through sales, etc.

Despite all these, this archives application the Ottoman State developed enables us to find documents on various issues. The fact that documents were recorded by several clerks ensured efficiency and consistency in the fulfilment of the State's functions. By virtue of the fact that the application had been standardized we meet with almost no noteworthy difficulty in researching the course of any issue, institution or relation through centuries as regards to the value, measure, concept and even expression thereof. That is to say, Ottoman documents show integrity both horizontally among institutions and vertically in history.

Again, those annalists that have been trying for two centuries to determine and define the events that concerned the centre of the State have benefited from these documents to a great extent.

Although 15 % of 300 thousand books and 150 million documents (which will add up to 500 million if those documents, etc. in various archives are taken into account) available today have been classified, it is out of the question to state that they are duly protected and offered to researchers.

Again, it cannot be said that the Shar'iyyah Records that are kept at Istanbul's Mufti's Office and at various museums are duly protected. These documents that reflect the events that have ever happened from the early periods of the Ottoman State have almost been abandoned to the mercy of time. In fact, this indifference partly explains the reason why the science of history and accordingly the social sciences have not sufficiently developed in Turkey.

Under these restrictions the value of the studies of such researchers as O. Turan, O. L. Barkan, H. nalck, L H. Uzuncarl, H. Sahillioglu, L. Ger, M. Akdag, K. Karpat, M. Ktkolu, N. Berkes further increases. Again, we should here mention the works of M. Gen, Y. Cezar, A. Tabakolu, T. Gran, A. Yaln and . Pamuk on the Economic History in Turkey as rare examples that possess certain integrity in this field.

 

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History of Economic History

Turkish Economic History

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