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Confiscation by the ruler: a study of the Ottoman practice of Müsadere, 1700s-1839

Arslantaş, Yasin (2017) Confiscation by the ruler: a study of the Ottoman practice of Müsadere, 1700s-1839. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis examines the practice of confiscation in the Ottoman Empire during the long-eighteenth century. It investigates what enabled, guided and motivated the sovereign to confiscate the property of elites, and how and to what extent this occurred. The contribution of this thesis is twofold. First, it provides the first systematic analysis of the practice of confiscation in the Ottoman Empire, highlighting the basis of selectivity in its application. Second, it contributes to a broader line of literature by analysing the drivers, informal constraints and persistence of historical state predation. One of the strengths of the thesis is its combination of theory and a rich variety of archival evidence, using both qualitative and quantitative techniques. The thesis finds that müsadere was a selective institution targeting mainly office-holders and private tax contractors. However, some were less likely to face or more capable of avoiding confiscation than others mainly due to factors related to time and location of confiscation, the bargaining position of the wealth-holder and the attributes of their wealth. Although confiscation was costly and time-consuming to enforce, the sultans were continuously interested in it because of its political and redistributive functions such as monitoring the behaviour of their agents and protecting their share in the fiscal revenue from fiscal intermediaries. They had power to do so primarily because of many disincentives of collective action among the targets of confiscation. Through the study of this practice, this thesis shows how an early modern monarch, who was not formally constrained, could and did confiscate the elite property in a time of crisis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Yasin Arslantaş
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Supervisor: Roy, Tirthankar

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