2nd International Conference on Economic and Social History

"Markets" and Politics
Private interests and public authority (18th-20th centuries)

Volos, 10-12 February 2012

The concept of the conference Organizers and sponsors Participants The conference programme The conference proceedings


Angelos Chotzidis The international economic control of the Ottoman Empire (1881-1914): the activities of European creditors and the reaction of the Ottoman authorities and farmers

Following the Οttoman government’s failure to meet its debt service obligations in 1875, European holders of Ottoman bonds (mainly French and British) managed to convince sultan Abdulhamit II to issue, on 20th December 1881, the Muharrem Decree, which established the European-controlled Ottoman Public Debt Administration (OPDA). As a result, many public revenues were entrusted to the OPDA, including those from the tobacco and salt monopolies, the silk tithe and the indirect taxes from stamps, fishing, and spirits. In 1883, the exploitation of the tobacco revenue was farmed by the OPDA to the Société de la Régie Cointéresée des Tabacs de l’Empire Ottoman (Régie).
OPDA and Régie have tried to accomplish their work without causing the reaction of the government and farmers. However, many times the Ottoman authorities (the government and local authorities), as well as the farmers, reacted strongly to the said work. Farmers were frequently reacting against Régie because they believed that it was offering low prices for their tobacco. In addition, right after 1888, fishermen reacted strongly, since OPDA had leased the fisheries revenues in certain districts, and thus OPDA terminated a number of contracts. Moreover, European creditors were not pleased with the efforts paid by the Ottoman authorities in view of their measures taken in order to reduce tobacco and salt smuggling, since the Ottoman government was not willing to dispute directly with the smugglers who were poor farmers trying to meet their financial needs through contraband. In general, the Ottoman government and local authorities supported farmers in their demands against Régie and OPDA. The said support has been more intense after 1908, during the Young Turk period, when ottoman MPs backed the farmers’ interests against the European bondholders.