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Kütahya in the Eighteenth Century: Transformation or the Persistence of the Old Order?


This dissertation examines the socioeconomic history of Kütahya, an inland town in western Anatolia, with a specific emphasis on the transformation that took place in the Ottoman Empire during the eighteenth century. However, it is not a socioeconomic history of an urban center or of a region in the traditional sense. Rather, it uses Kütahya and the surrounding region as a ground upon which it seeks to answer a series of questions about this transformation. These questions concern the impact of the administrative function of a city on its socioeconomic development; the extent to which a new financial policy implemented at the end of the seventeenth century--the malikâne system--affected power relations in the region surrounding Kütahya; and the role played by the cash requirements of the state at the end of the eighteenth century in the monetization of the economy. The dissertation also examines various aspects of credit relations, changes in consumption patterns, and the relationship between privilege and the accumulation of wealth.

The research does not subscribe to any particular perspective on the transformation that took place in the eighteenth century, nor does it focus on one particular framework of interpretation, such as center-periphery relations or the rise of the local notables. Rather, it is intended to provide as much concrete evidence as possible on these issues for a city and region for which there is literally no secondary literature.

The findings of this research show that generalizations about the transformation that took place in the Ottoman Empire during the eighteenth century need to be qualified with further research--especially with in-depth studies on different regions of the empire. During this period, local notables emerged, the financial and military crisis took a serious toll on the region, the economy became more and more monetized, credit relations expanded, and some sectors of society accumulated wealth. But, relations of power vis-à-vis the center did not change significantly. The notables that emerged posed no challenge to the central authority, the economy was to a great extent regional, and the accumulation of wealth remained a function of political and economic privilege.

The dissertation consists of two parts. The first three chapters are intended to provide a lengthy prelude to the eighteenth century, and draw largely on secondary sources. These chapters present a socioeconomic context for the changes that took place in the eighteenth century, and within which those changes can be assessed. The scarcity of secondary sources, and the highly descriptive nature of the few that exist also made it necessary to include an organized narrative for the period between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries in the first three chapters. The last three chapters cover the period roughly from 1671 to 1820, and are based to a great extent on primary sources--especially on the court registers. These three chapters seek to answer the questions concerning the transformation of the Ottoman Empire during the eighteenth century with the evidence provided by the primary sources.

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