Underwriting the Empire: Nizamiye Courts, Tax Farming and the Public Debt Administration in Ottoman Syria

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

This article investigates the role of the Ottoman Nizamiye Court of First Instance in conflicts over capital between public revenue agencies and tax farmers in the Syrian district of Homs at the turn of the twentieth century. The court's records show that it adjudicated these conflicts in exclusive reference to codified law. However, I argue that the court's formalist adjudication responded to political and economic circumstances defined by the global fiscal crises of the 1870s. In the aftermath of these crises, tax farmers took on new roles underwriting both Ottoman public debt and foreign investment through contracts with public revenue collection agencies like the Public Debt Administration. These agencies employed codified law to garner as much of tax farmers' profits as possible. Tax farmers used the same law to contest these efforts and leverage their new economic influence to maintain control over regional markets and land. The court's formalist rulings served the prerogatives of imperial sovereignty and solvency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)374-404
Number of pages31
JournalIslamic Law and Society
Volume26
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Keywords

  • Credit
  • Debt
  • Homs
  • Nizamiye courts
  • Ottoman Syria
  • Public debt administration
  • Tax farming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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