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Transformation of the Craft Guilds in Istanbul (1650-1860)

Author(s): ONUR YILDIRIM


Source: Islamic Studies, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Spring 2001), pp. 49-66
Published by: Islamic Research Institute, International Islamic University, Islamabad
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20837074
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Islamic Studies 40A (2001) pp. 49-66

Transformation of the Craft Guilds

in Istanbul

(1650-1860)
ONUR YBLDIRIM

Introduction
The post-classical era ofOttoman history (1600-1839)witnessed the break-up
of the traditionalbasis upon which the economic institutionsof the Empire
were founded.The weakening of the state interventionin the economic realm
gaveway to the inventionand importationof new economic institutionsand
practices in Ottoman economy. In the process, some of the established
were able to adjust theirstructuraland operational featuresto the
institutions
vicissitudes of themarket while some others failed to do so. Among the
formerwere the craftguilds as the fundamentalunit of production and labour
throughout theOttoman cities.1Most of the guilds underwent a significant
structuraltransformationin strivingto accommodate a multitude of external
and internal challenges in the course of this process.While they tried to
sustain their traditional organizations on the one hand, they increasingly
sought

to

expand

their room

for manoeuvre

in the market

on

the other. To

the lattereffect,theymoved towards autonomy in their administrationand


a

management,

tendency

reciprocated

by the Ottoman

state as well.

From themid-seventeenth century to the first half of the nineteenth

century, most

of the craft guilds

throughout

the Ottoman

territories made

an

efforttomanage their internalaffairsjudiciously in an effortto alleviate the


growingmarket pressure. The Ottoman state, in themeantime, growingly
1
Throughout thispaper the term 'craftguild* refersto the urban institutionsinwhich manual
labour and handicraftproduction as a whole were hierarchically organized by themembers of
the same occupation under the auspices of the state. The origins of such organizations in
Istanbul and the restof theOttoman imperial lands have so farnot been precisely located or
dated.However, it is established that the craftguildswhich operated under the above principle
existed,with minor ormajor differences,in Istanbul and almost all themajor towns and cities of
theOttoman Empire around themid-17th century. For Istanbul, see Zuhuri Danisman, ed.,
Evliya tylebi Seyabatnamesi (Istanbul: Zuhuri Danisman Yayinevi, 1967), 207-336. Also see
Eremya ?elebi Komiirciyan, IstanbulTarihi,XVII. Asirda Istanbul, eds.,H. Andreasyan and K.
Pamukciyan (Istanbul:Eren Yayincilik, 1988), 293-94.

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ONUR YILDIRIM

50

disassociated itselfwith themajority of these institutions,concentrating its


intereston thosewhich were involved in theproduction of strategicitems (e.g.
foodstuffs,the needs of the army),which in turn facilitatedthe process by
which the traditionalorganizationsof guildswere inevitablydismembered.At
the very end of this century-longprocess many masters of guild affiliation
turnedinto independentpractitionersof theircrafts,some proving to be good
capitalistsin termsof expanding theirworkshops into factories.
This paper describes theprocess of transformationthat the guilds in the
capital cityof theOttoman Empire underwent from 1650s to the firstdecades
of thenineteenthcentury.The Ottoman capital, Istanbul,where the intensity
of the process was feltmore acutely provides a good case in point. The
abundance of archivalmaterial relating to the craftguilds in the capital city
allows us to trace theups and downs of thisprocess systematicallyaswell as to
illustratefromwithin a portrait of theOttoman industryin its pre-factory
phase. Some of the factors that are considered as the prime movers in the
process fallmainly in the realm of relationshipbetween the state
restructuring
and the craftguilds. They range from theOttoman state's changingpolicies
regardingtheawqdf (pious foundations,sin.waqf; pi. awqaf) to itsprovisionist
concernswhich have historicallycontributedto theassertionof themonopoly
rightsof the guilds in the spheresof production and labour throughout the
imperial territories.By exploring some of these novel developments, this
paper aims to delineate thenewly institutedpractices and procedures involved
in the transformation
of the guilds from state-boundinstitutionsto relatively
autonomous

structures,

and

their

subsequent

demise

in

the nineteenth

century.

The present study dwells on four major factors of change that


transformedthe structuraland operational aspects of the craftguilds from
theirclassical to earlymodern basis in Istanbul.The combined effectsof the
price revolution2 and the Celali rebellions3of the late sixteenth century
facilitatedthe influxof people from the countryside to the capital city, and a
2
The only comprehensive studyof the effectsof theprice revolutionon theOttoman Empire is
O. L. Barkan's The Price Revolution of the SixteenthCentury as a Turning Point in the
Economic History of theMiddle East" in InternationalJournal ofMiddle East Studies, vol. 6
(1975), 3-28.
3
Celali rebellions devastated theAnatolian proper from the second half of the sixteenth to the
mid-seventeenth century. Including provincial representativesof the Ottoman state many

people from differentsegmentsof theOttoman society (e.g. students, soldiers,peasants, local


notables, etc.) participated in these rebellions. Several attemptshave been made to study the
causes of these uprisings.A good survey of this literaturecan be found in Suraiya Faroqhi,
"Political Tensions in theAnatolian Countryside Around 1600:An Attempt at Interpretation*
in her Coping with theState,Political Conflict and Crime in theOttoman Empire, 1550-1720
(Istanbul:The ISIS Press, 1995), 85-99.

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TRANSFORMATION

OF THE CRAFT GUILDS

IN ISTANBUL

51

largenumber of immigrantscame to place continuous pressureupon the craft


guilds of the city forpermission to enterduring the next few centuries.The
encounterof thecraftguildswith the incomingpopulation constitutesthe first
major issue to be studied in this respect.The entryof individualswithout a
formalguild trainingto the craftsand the creation of the alternativeformsof
production and labour (e.g. putting-out4 and migrant labour) secularly
increased after the sixteenth century, leading to the formulation and
application of various measures aimed at restoringthe traditionalposition of
the guilds in themarket.While those developments significantlyharmed the
hierarchicalprinciplesof theguilds, themost serious challenge camewhen the
Ottoman professional soldiers (e.g. janissaries)stepped in the "guildedworld".
The way in which the involvementof the janissarieswith the craftguilds
evolved in the course of nearly two centuriesprovides a piecemeal explanation
for the transformationof the structuralfeaturesof the craftorganizations.
Therefore, the special conditions under which the janissaries attached
themselves to the craft guilds should be treated carefully to elucidate the
process,which is one of themajor tasks to be
workings of the restructuring
fulfilledin thispaper.
The historic relationshipbetween awqdfand craftguildswas also subject
to certain revisions in the post-classical era. The building complexes (e.g.
bedestan, khan, etc.) comprisingworkshops and shops where artisans and
craftsmenpracticed their tradebelonged, for themost part, to the awqdf and
that the fiscalpolicies of theOttoman state regardingthe institutionof waqf
changed substantiallyduring the period under concern.The confiscationand
tax-farmingof thewaqf property,which was systematicallydevised by the
Ottoman

state to meet

the urgent

cash needs

due

to the
long-lasting wars,

distorted the long-establishedties between the awqdf and the craftguilds.An


attemptwill be made in the followingpages to assess the implicationsof this
change in the structuralorganization of the craftguilds.
The rise of new formsof production and labour in theOttoman market
contested themonopoly of the guilds in these areas. In the firsthalf of the
eighteenth century, the craft guilds in cooperation with the governmental
authorities formulatedand put into effecta new practice, namely gedik, to
eliminate this challenge. The gedik was intended to delimit the number of
4

The Cevdet Collection in theOttoman Archives, Istanbul, consists of many documents,


revealing the growing volume of non-guild production in the city. See, for example, Cevdet,
Evkaf, no. 15480, and Cevdet, Iktisat,no. 707.
5
The meaning of thisword is 'gap, slot, empty space*, but the craftsmenof the eighteenth
century used it to refer to the implementsof a craftsman,the contents of his workshop, the
thingsneeded to exercise a certain craft.The use of the term in Istanbul implied that themaster
craftsmanwas the only claimant to the capital fixed to a specificworkshop and could market it

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ONUR YILDIRIM

52

workshops for a specific craft and thereby endowed upon the master
craftsmenthemonopoly rightof practicinga craft.This new practice played a
crucial role in determining the futurecourse of the craftguilds, in that it
facilitatedthe process by which themembers of craftguilds found itmore
to

advantageous

practice

their crafts as independent

craftsmen

rather

than

under the protection of the guilds. This issuewill be treated in the following
pages, and due attentionwill be paid to the changing implicationsof the term
gedik.
Last, but not the least,therewere the changes in theprovisionistconcerns
of theOttoman state authoritieswhich aggravated the difficultiesfacing the
guilds in the last decades of the eighteenth century. The Ottoman state
authoritiesdecided toward off the ever-growingburdens of supplyingall the
craft guilds of the city with raw materials and focused their provisionist
concernson the craftsinvolved in foodstuffand other strategicitems.For the
unremittingsupplyof these crafts,theycreated institutionssuch as theGrain
Administration (Hububat Nezaretif and the Leather Administration
(Dabakbane Nezareti) towards the end of the eighteenth century. These
were given chargeof theprocurementand distributionof the raw
institutions

materials. The rest of the crafts,with their institutional and human


components,was leftat themercy of themarket. The lastpan of thispaper
probes into the institutionalarrangementsthatfacilitatedthisprocess.
Migration

Istanbulwas the largestmetropolis in theworld between 1560 and 1730.7


Cairo and Belgrade slightlydifferedfrom each other in termsof population
size, and competedwith Istanbul in growth. From theBalkans to theArab
provinces, an unparallelled shift in demographic outlook characterized the
mid-seventeenth

century Ottoman

empire. The

rural and agrarian

nature

of

theOttoman societyfaced thefirstmajor challengewhen a continual trendof


demographic upsurge8,a characteristicfeatureof Europe at the time,came to
characterize the Ottoman imperial lands. The growing insecurityof the
under certain circumstances. For the evolution of the use of the term, see Engin Akarli,
aGediks: Implements,Mastership, Shop Usufruct, and Monopoly among Istanbul Artisans,
1750-1850" inWissenschafiskolleg
Berlin Jabrbucb (1986), 223-31.
6
See Tevfik Giiran, "The State Role in the Grain Supply of Istanbul: The Grain
Administration, 1793-1839" in InternationalJournal of Turkish Studies, vol. 3, no. 1 (Winter

1984-85), 27-41.
7
Rhoads Murphey, "Communal Living inOttoman Istanbul: Searching for theFoundations of
anUrban Tradition" inJournal ofUrbanHistory, vol. 16,no. 2 (1990), 115.
8
There are no studiesof birth and death rates for theOttoman society during this era, and this
generalization is based mainly on changes in economic indicators.Further research is needed to
sustain

this argument.

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TRANSFORMATION

OF THE CRAFT GUILDS

IN ISTANBUL

53

countryside,especially aftertheCelali rebellionsand thepressureof new fiscal


measures devised by the central state in addition to the
increasingdemand for
remunerationsby the provincial officials (bid'at), contributed greatly to the
depopulation of the countryside.A continuous human influx into towns and
citiesbecame a common featureof theOttoman territoriesthereafter;and the
governmental effortsto curb themigration to the capital city proved futile.
Halil Inalcik estimates an average increase of 80 per cent in the urban
population of theOttoman empireduring thisprocess.9The population of the
capital city is estimatedto have nearlydoubled between 1600-1800.10
How this secular trend of population growth and its direct result,
migration to towns, affectedthe characterof the craftguilds throughout the
urban areas and especially in Istanbul remainsyet to be traced.Whether it
bolstered expansion and development in the manufacturing sectors, and
accordingly in the size of the craftguilds, is a question which has not so far
attracted much scholarly attention. These general questions should be
investigatedprimarilybefore layingclaim to an understandingof thehistorical
process bywhich the craftguilds evolved fromrigidlyorganized and centrally
managed

institutions

to

relatively

loose

and

autonomous

organizations

in

which the craftsmenhad a larger room formanoeuvre than the preceding


period. This historical process is thekey to understand thepre-factoryphase
of theOttoman industrialproduction,which is the prime objective of this
paper.

The Ottoman empire representeda 'command economy'11 in the sense


that the provisioning of the capital city topped the concerns of the imperial
authorities,and the economic life in the citywas accordinglykept under the
tightcontrol of the state.The guilds in such a strictlycontrolled environment,
enjoying thepatronage of the state,were quite inflexiblystructuredduring the
classical period, notwithstandingthe fact that theywere not part of the state
structure

proper,

and

that

there were

no

Sultanic

decrees

(Kanunname)

regulatingtheirworking. The statemade itspresence stronglyfelt in the lives


of the guildsmen in a variety of ways. First and foremost,the statewas the
chief agency enforcingthe rules in themarketplace and fulfillingitsprincipal
function,namely the collection of taxes.The most direct contact between the
9
Halil Inalcik, TheOttoman Empire: theClassical Age, 1300-1600 (New York andWashington:
Praeger, 1973), 159.
IC
For a discussion of the demographic issues regardingIstanbul during thisperiod, seeRhoads
Murphey,

"Communal

Living

in Ottoman

Istanbul...",

115-131.

11
See BruceMcGowan, Economic Life inOttoman Europe: Taxation, Trade, and theStrugglefor
Land, 1600-1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981). See also Anthony
Greenwood's unpublished Ph.D. dissertation entitled "Istanbul'sMeat Provisioning :A Study
of theCelepkesan System",The University ofChicago, Chicago, IL, 1988.

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ONURYILDIRIM

54

state and the guildsmen occurred, however, in times of war when the state
asked for goods and services to be provided in themilitary campaigns.12
Certain number of guildsmen fromeach craftguildwas draftedto accompany
the army on campaign. They set up shop wherever the army camped, and
thereby the soldiers' need to visit urban markets, where theymight cause
was
scarcity and disturbance,

somewhat

eliminated.13

The direct involvementof theOttoman statewith the affairsof theguilds


concentratedmainly on fiscal and administrativematters. The guilds were
accountable for the collection from theirmembers of numerous taxes levied
by both central and provincial administrators.Where administrative
is concerned, Ottoman

involvement

governments

systematically

intervened by

making appointments to the chiefguild offices.Certain guild officialssuch as


theyigitba$iand kethudawho mediated on the issuesof taxation andmilitary
servicebetween the state and theguildswere elected by theguildmasters but
the appointmentprocedurewas finalizedby the approval of the qadi (judge)
It would not be too far
during the classical era and even thenceforward.14
fetchedan assumption that therewas somewhat a formalconnection between
the state and the craftguilds during the classical age of theOttoman empire.
The guilds of Istanbul, with their well-defined hierarchies, and neatly
prescribed administrativeand fiscal obligations, continued to honour this
connection so as to uphold theirprivilegedposition in themarket. Until the
mid-nineteenthcentury,the Istanbul guildsmen looked to the stateauthorities
forhelp againstanyonewho might challenge theireconomic position.
The formalassociation of theguildswith the state implieda rigid internal
structuring in which the hierarchical principles were strictly observed.
Relative to thenature of the craft,thedegree of rigidityin the Istanbul guilds
changed from one type of craft to another.15Guilds which frequently
confronted the above mentioned threats probably allowed more state
interventionin their internal affairsthan the others. The established crafts

such

as tanners,

shoe-makers,

saddlers

or

tailors were

more

strict in their

12
Suraiya Faroqhi, "The Fieldglass and theMagnifying Lens: Studies of Ottoman Crafts and
Craftsmen" inherMaking a Living in theOttoman Lands, 1480 to 1820 (Istanbul:The ISIS Press,
1995), 80.
13
Ibid., 82.
14
See Osman Nuri Ergin,Mecelle-i Umur-u Belediyye,Tarib-i Teskilat-iBelediyye (?enberlitas,
Istanbul:Matbay-i Osmaniyye, 1922),vol. I.
15
Carlo Poni's remarks for the guilds in Bologna make great sense here. Carlo Poni, "Norms

and Disputes: The Shoemakers*Guild in Eighteenth Century Bologna" in Past and Present,
nos.l 12-125 (1989), 80-81. "According to the typesof tools, rawmaterials, techniques,different
movements of the body and thehands, different
ways of buying and selling,each tradeand craft
had differenttraditions,social practices, a differentidentityand status in society, and a different
culture

of work".

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TRANSFORMATION

OF THE CRAFT GUILDS

IN ISTANBUL
55

principles than donkey-shavers,plumbers or porterswhich operated on very


small profitmargins.16On the other hand, the crafts such as goldsmiths or
silversmithsremained traditionallyconfined to a small circle of families.The
Ottoman state'smonopoly over the imperialmines required that the crafts
involvedwith precious metals as gold and silverwere to be kept under the
strictcontrol of the state.To this effect,the entranceof unskilled people to
the craft guilds specialized in precious metals was banned with a special
provision in the rule books (nizamname)of those craft-guilds.In general,most
of the incoming population enrolled themselves in guilds with relatively
flexiblerulesof admission as it found itsexpression in thegrowing size of such

craftguildsduring the seventeenthcentury.


In the post-classical era, the number of shops allowed for tanners, for
instance, showed a substantial increase in Istanbul.The number of tanneries
which was fixedat 700 in the sixteenthcenturyrose to 3000 in the seventeenth
was
century.17 It

not

only

the increasing pressure of the newcomers

that made

this rise possible but also certain governmental regulations that dictated the
working of themarket such as the Ihtisab rules began to lose theiroperative
functions.Whence the Ihtisab principle that fixed the number of shops for
each craftceased to function,the craftguilds obtained the initiativeto decide
when to increase the number of their shops.18As themarket expanded, the
craft guilds allowed the opening of more shops and workshops without

compromisingmuch from theirtraditionalprinciples.Thereby the admission


of immigrantsto the craft guilds was reconciled in the long run by the
expansion of theOttoman market. This did not apply to all the guilds in the
city.As in the case of the tinsmithsof Istanbul, the attempt to open ftiore
shops than theneed of themarket was curbed on the ground of 'bais-iihtilal
(attemptto rebel).19
In many other areas of the empire, such as the Balkan and Arab

provinces,

where

the central

state was

not

so

effective,

other

forms

of

production and labour found, from early on, a more flexible and viable
environmentto flourishand operate in the faceof ever-growingdemographic
Unlike the Balkan cities,where the control mechanism of the
pressure.20
Ottoman state failed to protect the craftguilds from the increasingthreatsof
16
Robert Mantran, Istanbul dans la secondemoitie du XVIIe siecle (Paris: Libraire Adrien
Maisonneuve, 1962), 367.
17
See Evliya ?elebi, Evliya tylebi Seyahatnamesi, ed., Zuhuri Danisman (Istanbul: Zuhuri
Danisman Yayinevi, 1967),vol. II.
18
Mubahat Kutiikoglu, "Osmanli Esnaf Orgiitlerinde Oto-Kontrol Miiessesesiw in Esnaf ve
Ahilik (Istanbul:Esnaf ve SanatkarlarDernegi Yayanlari, 1986), 60.
19
Ibid.
20
For the Balkan provinces,, see Nikolay Todorov, The Balkan City (Seattle:University of
Washington Press, 1983).

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ONUR YILDIRIM

56

internal
migration, thecapital city continued to provide the craftguildswith a
secured

environment

to maintain

their

supremacy

in the market.

Many

documents suggest that the state collaborated inmany cases with the craft
guilds to get rid of the threatsposed to the traditionalorganizations of these
But where the guildswere able to accommodate the changing
institutions.21

conditions, the initiativeto deal with the arisingproblems laid, for themost
was minimal.
part, in thehands of theguildsmen,and the state intervention
Janissaries

The most serious challenge to the viability of the traditional set up that the
guilds represented came with the growing infiltrationof the professional
Ottoman soldiers (janissaries)to the civic life.Once the janissariesgotmarried
andmoved out ofmilitary barracks, theywere no longerentitled to any kind
of income. Therefore, beginningwith the seventeenthcentury,many of the
janissariesbegan to infiltrateinto the realm of craftproduction, and hence the
craftguilds.With the introductionof janissariesinto theguilds, the traditional
organizations of the guildswere exposed to a seriesof challenges.First of all,
the janissarieswere relativelyfree from the control of themuhtasib (market
inspector) and qadi (judge) due to theirmilitary privileges.This encouraged
them to change the guild structureto their own advantage, a development

which generated furtherabuses. As Inalcik's researchhas demonstrated, the


janissariesgrowinglydishonoured the narh (theofficiallyfixedmarket price),
quality standards,and the principle of opening shops in the locality accorded
to each craftguild. Inalcik statesthat "theyoften forcedestablishedmasters to
take them into partnershipand divide theprofits,and worst of all their large
22
scale profiteering in raw-materialswent unpunished." All these factors
played amajor role in thedeteriorationof the traditionalguild structureand
thedecline of theOttoman craftsin general.
The major city of the empirewhere the janissariesare documented to

have been extensivelyengaged in the craftsduring the seventeenthcentury is


the capital city, Istanbul.At the outset, their involvement took the formof
opening shops andworkshops without theprior permission of the guilds, and
most of the aforementioneddevelopments ensued.23But in the course of time,
as Osman Nuri indicates in his sizable account, various other mechanisms
emerged so as to accommodate the janissaries into the economic life of

21
Ahmed Refik, Istanbul Hayati, Onikinci Asr-i Hicri'de (1689-1785) (Istanbul: Enderun
Kitabevi, 1988),vol. 3, documents 78, 79, 254.
22
Halil Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire, 158-159. For a preliminary treatmentof the janissary
involvementwith the crafts,see Cemal Kafadar's unpublishedMaster's Thesis, "Yeniceri-Esnaf
Relations: Solidarity and Conflict",McGill University,Montreal, 1981.
23
Robert

Mahtran,

Istanbul..,

393.

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TRANSFORMATION
OF THE CRAFTGUILDS IN ISTANBUL

57

The chiefmechanism facilitatingthe entryof the janissariesinto the


Istanbul.24
craftguildswas perhaps related to the traditionalobligation of the craftguilds
to supply theOttoman armywith the craftsmenand artisanson campaigns.
Given the evidence, it is very likely that the craftguilds began to admit the
janissariesinto theirorganizations on grounds that theywould be the ones to
participate as craftsmeninmilitary campaignswhen ordered by the state.25
This would certainlyprovide a piecemeal explanation for thewelcoming of
the janissariesby thecraftguilds.
The establishedmaster-craftsmentried to keep the janissariesaway from
the hierarchical systemof theirorganizations and created special units called
yamak for them as part of the craftguild. The extent towhich this practice
found an area of application in the other imperial cities has been partially
documented for theguilds of the cities likeCairo, Damascus, Salonica,Aleppo
and Sofia,where largenumber of janissarieshad been stationed in garrisons
during the classical age.Many major cities of theEmpire, includingIstanbul,
with a large janissaryconstituencywitnessed another development, namely
theunlawful formationof janissarybands.Many janissarybands began to eke
out their living by securingprotection to the guilds in return for certain
benefits.The janissarieshave been continuously in close touchwith the craft
guilds in Istanbuldue theirrole as zabitas (citypolice) since the classical era. In*
this age of uncertainty, the nature of relationship slightlymodified and the
guildsmen began to rely growinglyon the janissarymob for theirprotective
services,especially against thevendorswho were marketing low-pricedforeign

products, and other guildsmenwho interferedin their traditional realm of


production. There is no need to get into differentpatterns of janissaries'
integrationto the craftguilds but, various formsof involvementdescribed
above found a fertileground to flourishin the capital city. In the long-run,the
who practiced craftsand trades under a
janissarieswith yerliyyaaffiliation,
guild umbrella, namely yamak, and those who provided the guilds with
various servicesemerged into a potential political force in the capital city. In
1730 and 1807,26janissaries triggeredrevolts intowhich many journeymen
from the guilds in the capital citywere soon drawn. Itwas not until the total
24
Osman NuriErgin, Mecelle-i Umur-u Belediyye, Tarih-i Teskilat-i Belediyye (Cenberlitas,
Istanbul:Matbay-i Osmaniye, 1922), 617-25.
25
Ibid., 631.
26
Robert Olson, "The Esnaf and the Patrona Halil Rebellion of 1730: A Realignment in
Ottoman Politics" inJournal of theEconomic and SocialHistory of theOrient, vol. XVII (1976),
329-344. Also see his "Jews,Janissaries,Esnaf and theRevolt of 1740 in Istanbul" inJournal of
theEconomic and SocialHistory of theOrient, vol. XX (1978), 185-207. For the 1807 rebellion,
the best source is Ahmed Cevdet Pasa's Tarih-i Cevdet [Tertib-iCedid] (Istanbul:Matbay-i
Osmaniyye, 1302-1309 / 1884-1892), vol. DC.

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ONURYILDIRIM

58

abolition of the janissarycorps in 1826 that the complete removal of the


janissaryfactorfromtheworld of theguildsmen took place.

Awqaf (PiousFoundations)
wars kept the janissariesin the
During the eighteenthcentury,the long-lasting
battlefield long enough and accordinglyprevented them frombeing actively
involved in the affairsof the craftguilds. The impact of thesewars on the
guildswas not only limitedto the temporaleliminationof the janissaryfactor.
Another major development that shook up the craftguilds from theirvery
foundationsoriginated from the aggravatingstateof the imperialfinancesdue
to the wars.

In order

to finance

its continual military

ventures,

the Ottoman

state resorted to certain fiscaladjustments,amongwhich was the confiscation


and tax-farming
of thewaqf property. In the course of the eighteenthcentury,

Ottoman governments systematicallyexpropriated the immovables of the


awqaf and farmed themout to theprivate hands at auctions.Also during the
same

era, many

governmental

offices were

auctioned

to the tax-farmers

to

meet the urgent cash demands of the state.Both developments significantly


contributed to thedistortion of thehistoric ties between thewaqf institution
and thecraftguilds.
The pivotal role of thewaqf'm social and economic lifeof theOttoman
city has been studied thoroughlynotwithstandingthe fact that the common
the scholars has been

tendency

among

as well

administratively

to study it separately

from the urban

structureslike the craftguilds.The awqafwere created in the towns and cities


of theOttoman Empire fromearlyon by theSultans, theirmothers, high state
officials like ba?vezirs (chiefviziers) and reis-ulkiittab (chief scribes), and the
notablemembers of theOttoman society.These institutions,being financially
as

autonomous

foundations,

were

responsible

for the

construction of the cultural and commercial complexes in the Ottoman


cities.27
Throughout theOttoman imperial lands,most of thebedestan (central
marketplace) were brought into existence under thewaqf system.28In this
system,the awqafwere given charge of these buildings for the life-span.The
organization of the centralmarket place required that themembers of a single
craftor merchants selling the same type of goods occupy a singlemarket,
containing shops andworkshops which branched out and lined on both sides
of a road.29The waqf owned the shops and other spaces occupied by the crafts
and trades in themarket place and theproprietorshipof these spaces by the

27
Inalcik, TheOttoman Empire, 142-43.
28
Halil Inalcik, "Istanbul:An IslamicCity" inJournal ofIslamic Studies,vol. 1 (1990), 9.
29
Inalcik,The Ottoman Empire, 143.

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TRANSFORMATION

OF THE CRAFT GUILDS

IN ISTANBUL

59

waqf implied a certainamount of rentby the craftsmenand traders.The rents


fromthe shops in a bedestanwere themajor sourceof income for thewaqf?0
From the late seventeenthcenturyonwards, theOttoman stateofficialsas
well as the local notables began to use the awqaf to theirown advantage.As
the taxation policy of theOttoman statewas geared tomeet the expenses of
the long lastingwars, many stateofficialsand local notables began to invest
theirfortunesinto the establishmentof buildings (musaqqafat)such as bazars,
shops, baths, depots,workshops, bakeries,mills, etc. and endowed themupon
a waqf which secured a steady rent for them in this era of fiscal instability.
Also they took over the already establishedawqaf for theupkeep of the state
owned buildings,mainly of thosewith commercialnature.The administrators
of the awqaf began to exert a serious pressure upon the artisans by way of
increasingrents.Most artisans in the citywere unable to absorb these rent
hikes.31

The same period saw the extensivepractice of tax-farming


formeeting the
urgent cash needs of the state.To this effect,thewaqf buildingswhich were
confiscatedby the statewere gradually rentedout to thehighestbidders at the

auctions. Given the fact that the Ottoman governments systematically


resortedto confiscationduring thisera, the severityof the challenge facingthe
guildsmen becomes clear. Thus, the amount of rent allocated to each small

workshop in the bedestanwhich has traditionallybeen determined by the


current-market

rates became

subjected

to the will

of the tax-farmer. And many

craftsmenfound the solution inmoving out from the locationwhere they


were practicing their craft, and thereby broke the traditionalprinciple of
practicingcraftin the same localitywith theirfellowcraftsmen.
The implications of this change for themembers of craft guilds who
practiced theircraftsin theworkshops and shops situated in the bedestanand
other commercial buildingswere manifold. The master craftsmenand the
other shopkeeperswho were holding their shops via certain contracts (e.g.
muqata'a and ijarateyri),signedwith the trusteesof theawqaf had good reasons
to resent the new
practice.

If anything,

this was

one of the most

serious

threats

ever posed to the spatialunity of the craftguilds provided by the traditional


structureof bedestanor $ar?i.Their fightingback took the formof appealing
to the 6rf (custom) and sbari'ah (Islamic law). At the end of the eighteenth
century, the representativesof craftguilds as well as those of themerchant
guilds facing up the same problem petitioned theDivan-i Humayun (the
Ottoman imperial court). The master-craftsmen showed their gedik
30
John Barnes, An Introduction toReligious Foundations in theOttoman Empire (Leiden: E. J.
Brill, 1987), 50.
31SuraiyaFaroqhi, "Ottoman Guilds in the Late Eighteenth Century: The Bursa Case" in her
Making a Living in theOttoman Lands, 98.

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ONUR YILDIRIM

60

documents,with which we shalldeal below, as theirproof of ownership of the


tools and equipment located in theirworkshops, and argued that this new
practice could devastate not only their lives but disrupt the economic lifeof
with a
the empire as awhole. The outcome was prohibition of the tax-farmers
decree by the Sultan from interferingin the business of the craftsmenand
other shopkeepers.32
This solutionwas short-livedand the pressure from the
same sources revived not before too
long.

iltizam (Tax-Farming)
The reversalof the Sublime Porte's provisioningpolicies should be considered as
one of the major developments that brought about the downfall of the
traditionalposition of the guilds in theOttoman economic world. This multi
faceted process introduced some major novelties into theworld of the craft
guilds, among which were the institutionalarrangementsaccompanying the
changes in theprovisioningpolicies. In the eighteenthcentury,the conversionof
units (i.e.mukataas), and their sale in
certaingovernmentaloffices into tax-farm
return of cash-down-paymentsfrom four years length to life-timeduration
(malikane) created a rather troublesome environment for the operation of the
craft guilds.33Tax farmingwas extended to the other key institutionsof
Istanbul's economic life, the most important of which were the offices of
muhtasib.

The major offices in theurban economy of Istanbul belonged to the judges


(qddi) andmarket-inspectors (muhtasib).The latterwere in charge of the price
regulations in the city due to their direct contact with the people in the
As Mantran makes
marketplace and theirknowledge of thedifferenttax-rates.34
it clear:
If the kadi is closer to the governmental milieu,

the muhtesib ismore

in contact

with thecraftguilds;he ismainly theexecutorof thedecisionsof thekadi and of


is the person in charge of application of the laws and regulations
raw materials or
the
functioning of the craft guilds, and distributing the
regarding
the products imported to Istanbul among different groups practicing the same
theDivan. He

craft;he observes that the prices fixedby theDivan or the kadi are being

respected, and he inspects themarketplace,

follows and controls the merchants

32
For a detailed analysis, see Engin Akarli, aGediks: Implements,Mastership, Shop Usufruct,
andMonopoly among IstanbulArtisans, 1750-1850", 226-27.
33
Cf. Yavuz Cezar, Osmanli Maliyesinde Bunalim veDegisim Donemi (Istanbul:Alan Yayincilik,
1986).
34
Mubahat Kiitiikoglu, Osmanli Imparatorlugu'ndaNarh Muessesi ve 1640 Tarihli Narh Defteri
(Istanbul:Enderun Kitabevi, 1983), 21.

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TRANSFORMATION

OF THE CRAFT GUILDS

IN ISTANBUL

61

and the artisans and especially collects the taxes of ihtisabiye or ihtisah rusumu
that represent the taxes forwhich the people of crafts are accountable.33

In short, themuhtasibwas theorganizer of the localmarkets, and collector


of the taxes.36Given the crucial role of themuhtasib in the operation of the
market mechanism of the city, the significanceof the tax-farmingof this
institutionbecomesmuch clearer.In the classicalperiod of theOttoman Empire,
of this officewas not unusual, but itsdurationwas only on an
the tax-farming

annual basis, and the authority of the qadi and other governmental offices
probably curbed any likelihood of corruption.The muhtasibs in the eighteenth
century, retained life ownership of these offices and this institutiongained a
hereditary character in the course of this period. Within this context, the

muhtasibs increased their fortunesby establishing alignmentswith the groups


thathelped them securemore profit than the amount stated in theircontract. In
otherwords, themuhtasibs began to favourcertaingroups at the expense of the
others, and thereby contributed greatly to the destruction of the very
foundationsupon which theguildswere based.
Much like the office of muhtasib, certain key positions in the guilds that
were established to conduct communication with the government became
subjected to the tax-farmingprocedure. Such guild offices as kethuda and the
yigitbapwhich occupied the top ranks in theguildswere given out by the central
which implied that theholder of the officewas in a
administrationas tax-farms,
position to collect fees and dues, a developmentwhich made these offices into
paying positions.37There was a growing trend as indicated by the increasing
number of the complaint lettersthat the people who retained theseofficesused
them

for

"purposes

that were

not

included

in

the

coverage

of

tax-farm

contract".38In otherwords, guildswhose officeshad been farmedout were being


administeredagainst thebest interestsof theirmembers.
Another institutionaldevelopment that sprang from the same financial
concerns

of the state was

the conversion

of the state-owned

establishments

such as salhanes (slaughterhouses), into tax-farmunits throughout the

created some
government
eighteenth century. In that respect, the Ottoman
new tax-farmable institutions. The
example of "tavsan derisi mukataasi" which

was given chargeof the collection of the rabbit skinsdemonstrates the abuses
33
Robert Mantran, Istanbul, 299-300.
36
See Robert Mantran, aUn document sur Pihtisab d'Istanbul a la fin du XVIIe siecle" in
VEmpire ottomandu XVIe au XVIIIe siecle:administration,economie,societe(London: Variorum
reprints,1984), 127-149. Also see idem, aLa Police des Marches d'Istanbul au Debut du XVIe
Siecle" inLEmpire ottomanduXVIe au XVIIIe siecle.
37
BasbakanlikArsivi, Cevdet, Belediye, no. 5150.
38
?agatay Ulucay, aistanbul Sarachanesi ve Saraclari" inBelgelerleTurk TarihiDergisi [Istanbul],
vol. VE, no. 5, (1953), 161.

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ONUR YILDIRIM

62

associatedwith such institutions.This new development enabled the holders


of this tax-farmto charge thewholesale merchants aswell as the guild officials
additional fees.The Frenchmerchantswho paid customsdues on rabbit skins
were asked to pay one piastremore for
that theybought fromthis institution,
each skin in the year 1786.39In response to the complaints, theOttoman
governmentordered themarket officialsto look into theproblem as thiswas
with theFrench government.
against theprovisions of the commercial treaty
Merchants
increasingnumber of unskilled individuals practicing clandestinely the
craftsthathave traditionallybeen confined to themembers of the craftguilds
also causedmany complaints on the part of the craftsmenin the capital city.
From the tailors to the silk spinners, there is a large number of complaint
petitions conveyed to theDivan-i Humayun on that issue from thebeginningof
the eighteenth century onwards.40The staple policy of the Ottoman state

The

required that theofficials,yigitbapsand ketbudas,of each guildwould be present


in the locationwhere the deliverieswere made by themerchants to the state
officials.41Then, theywould receive the pre-determinedquantities of raw
materials to distribute among themembers of theirguilds. All the available
evidence points to the fact that thishad been the actualmethod of delivery and
distribution since the classicalperiod of theOttoman empire.42In this context,
the craft guilds of the city were almost completely dependent upon the
merchants. The latter brought the raw materials from a variety of places
designated by a cooperative work between the central and provincial state
authorities,who were the supervisorsof thewhole process from its beginning
to the end. This "chain of dependency" had, as its last actors, the other
craftsmenof thecitywhose productionwas dependent upon theiracquisition of
the semi-processed

material.

Considering

the leather, for example,

the process

startedwith the delivery of the skins and hides to the tanners and then the
leather tanned by the tanner guilds of the citywas distributed to the other
leather-related

crafts.

In

this context,

such

crafts as

shoe-makers,

saddlers,

cobblers, and, for thatmatter, the bookbinders of Istanbul constitutedthemost

39
Basbakanlik Arsivi, Cevdet, Iktisat,no. 641.
40
See, forexample,BasbakanlikArsivi, Cevdet, Iktisat,nos. 955 and 991.
41
For more informationon the functionsof these officials,seeH. A. R. Gibb and H. Bowen,
Islamic Societyand theWest: A Study of theImpact ofWestern Civilization onMoslem Culture in
theNear East (London: Oxford Press, 1951-59), vol. 1, Part 1, 289-291. Also seeHalil Inalcik,
"The Appointment Procedure of a Guild Warden (Kethuddf inWiener Zeitschrifi
fur die Kunde

Andreas Tietze [Wien] vol. 76 (1986), 135-142.


desMorgenlandes: Festscrift
42
Halil Inalcik, TheOttoman Empire, 148-152, andGibb and Bowen, Islamic Society,291-92.

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TRANSFORMATION
OF THECRAFTGUILDS IN ISTANBUL

63

fragilepart of the chain,which in turn,forcedthem to seek out alternativeways


to continue theirproduction in timesof scarcity.
There are a number of cases in the eighteenthcentury showing that the
shoe-makersor saddlers entered into business contractswith the individual
merchants, which caused an outcry of the tanners on grounds that their
"traditionalrights" are undermined.The most interestingcase comes from the
tannerswho were engaged in the tanning of horse, ass and mule skins.43
Sagmct esnaficomplained that saragesnafi (saddlers)of the city had long been
involved in clandestine activitieswith themerchants, and theymust buy the
raw skins fromtheirguilds.They requestedthat the government look into the
matter and then issue a document to prohibit such kind of activities as they
were

custom.
against the

The same kind of complaint is echoed in another similar letterfrom the


tannersof the city in the year 1785. They argued that the right to buy the
hides of oxen, cows, and skinsof sheep and goat had traditionallybelonged to
the guild of tanners,and the butchers' guild, kasaplar, has recentlybegun to
buy these rawmaterials without any authorization.They requested that the
Divan-i Hiimayun issueprohibitiondocuments.44
As a response to thegrowing
tendencyon thepart of theunauthorized individualsto practice the craftsand
trades,themembers of the craftguilds developed thepolicy of gedik bywhich
themaster-craftsmenregisteredtheirtools and equipment in theirnameswith
the kethuda (steward) of their craft-guilds,
who was the coordinator of the
relationsof the craft-guild
with thegovernment.45

Gedik
The overall implication of gedik was that it confirmed the monopoly of
master-craftsmanover the production of his item, or his part in the
production process of a certain item.The ideal formulawas to fixand stabilize
the number of master-craftsmenor tradersdealing with the production and
From its introductionto the economic lifeof Istanbul in
sellingof an item.46
the
licence
with the approval of
1727-28,
given to themaster-craftsmen
gedik
the local judgewas transferablefromfatherto son.The workshop or the shop
where the tools and equipmentwere located, and the craftsmanpracticed his
43
BasbakanlikArsivi, Cevdet, Belediye, no. 357.
44
BasbakanlikArsivi, Cevdet/iktisat, no. 53.
45
225. The process by which themembers of different
Engin Akarli, "Gedik: Implements,
craftguilds came to formulate the decision to start such a practice as the gedik has not so far
been sufficientlydocumented. See Suraiya Faroqhis's remarks for this issue. Suraiya Faroqhi,
"Ottoman Guilds in the lateEighteenthCentury: The Bursa Case" inherMaking a Living in the
Ottoman Lands, 98-102.
46
Osman Nuri Ergin,Mecelle-iUmur-u Belediyye...,656.
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64

ONUR YILDIRIM

traderemainedoutside the sphereof the individualrightscovered by thegedik


licence.Many of the commercial buildingswhich were registeredwith the
awqdfwere now being growinglyplaced under the administrationby the tax
farmers.

By and large,the tax farmers(multezim)became theonly claimants to the


revenues generated by the awqdf propertymainly of commercial nature. It
who was entitled to gedik
should be remarkedhere that themaster-craftsman
licence had already been assigned, though only by implication,a spot in the
locality of his craft in order to carry out his activities.Once themaster
craftsmanwas granted the ownership of the implements,he emerged into a
potential figureto go and open up his workshop at themost spot, the factor
which played themost crucial role in thedeformationof the craftguilds, by
breaking the spatial unity in Istanbul in the long-run.As we have discussed

resulted in themoving out of


above, the increasingpressureof the tax-farmers
many craftsmenfrom the central localityof theircraft.The gedik documents
which furnishedthemwith the legal rightto theownership of the implements
and secured thema spot in thework area facilitatedthisprocess.
The conditions under which the gedik licences changed hands provide
furtherevidence to the effectsof thegedik on thedisintegrationof the guilds.
In practice,when the people were transferringtheirgedik-licences through
inheritanceor sale, theirrightsto the implementsand thework spacewould
both be transferredto the holder. Although the details of the transfer
are yet to be uncovered,
the
in the early decades of its application
procedure
to
current research suggests that the inheritance from father to son continued

be themajor means for the transferof gedik in Istanbul during the eighteenth
century.Within the craftguilds, the ceilings put on promotion became the
whose subordination
major barrier to the advancementof skilled journeymen,
was furthersustainedby thegedikpractice, in thatwhen a vacancy opened up,
the relatives, ifnot sons,would be the firstto fill it.The use of the gedik
document to claim the right to this opening was a common practice
throughoutthe eighteenthcentury,which implied that the craftguilds did no
longer strictly pursue the hierarchical principles that characterized the
structuringof the guilds since the classical era.Many unskilled individuals
made theirway into the realm of craftproduction throughthegedikwithout
going throughthe stagesof apprenticeshipand journeymanship.
The application of gedik contributed to thedissolution of the traditional
foundationsupon which theOttoman guildswere based. As thisdocument
yielded individual craftsmansome room formaneuovre which would enable
him to practice his craftwherever he wanted, the traditionalprinciple that the
members of a craftguild had to exercise theircraftsin the same locality (e.g.
bedestan)began to lose itsoperative significance.The opening of single shops
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TRANSFORMATION

OF THE CRAFT GUILDS

IN ISTANBUL

65

andworkshops outside thedesignated localityof a craft,or thepractice of the


craft in households, a trendnoticeable in cities like Bursa, came to form a
pattern in Istanbul in the eighteenthcentury. In order to curb this tendency,
the opening ofworkshop and shop blocs by the statewas often requested by
the craftguilds.As a response to the complaints of the shoe-makers'guild of
Uskudar, for instance, the governmentbuilt a new workshop complex and
ordered that itwas prohibited to open shops outside thisarea.47
The major development that sparkedoff theprocess of dissolution of the
beganwhen themember of the craftguilds began to use theirgediks
craft-guild
as collateral to guarantee loans theytook from themerchants.As the relevant

documents

indicate,

the failure of the master-craftsmen's

payment

of

their

loans resulted in the selling of their implementsat auctions to the highest


bidders.48
This would mean the entranceof an outsider to the craftguild either
as a journeymanwho could not be promoted due the limitednumber of gediks
in a craft guild or somebody who had no experience and training as an
apprentice or journeyman.The same problem would occur when the family
of a deceased master-craftsmanwould inherithis gedik and sell it to the
unrelated individuals.Notwithstanding all these developments, the gedik
prevailed as themajor legalmechanism by means of which the guildsmen
continued to claim themonopoly rightover a certain sector until themid
nineteenthcentury.By then themajority of themaster craftsmenhad already
used theirgedik certificatesto assume full independence,and the changes in the
systemof waqfhzd alreadymade them the owners of theirworkshops where
theypursued theircraftswith no obligation to any organization like the craft
guilds.
Conclusion
During

the classical

era,

the Ottoman

Empire

represented

"command

economy" inwhich the statepursued a constant staplepolicy tomaintain the


steady supply of the internalmarkets of the empire, and especially thatof its
administrative capital, Istanbul.49 The guilds with their fiscal and
administrative

services

to

the

central

and

provincial

governments

were

accorded a special place in theOttoman imperial system.They were granted


monopolies in the realms of production and distribution in the market.
Taking advantage of the favourable conditions, the guilds in the capital city
47
Basbakanlik Arsivi,Cevdet, Belediye, no.52.
48
Engin Akarli, "Gedik..", 226.
4V
Mehined Gen9, "Ottoman Industry in the Eighteenth Century: General Framework,
Characteristics andMain Trends" inD. Quataert, ed.,Manufacturing in theOttoman Empire and
Turkey, 1500-1914 (Albany: SUNY Press, 1994), 59-86.

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ONURYILDIRIM

66

flourished, closely bound as theywere to the patronage of the statewhich


imposed restrictivequalities and made the guilds relatively inflexible and
exquisitely
From

vulnerable
the

structures.

seventeenth

century

onwards,

however,

practices

and

institutionsassociatedwith theOttoman imperialsystembegan to fallapart as


the changing conditions of themarket accompanied by a continual rise of
population dismantled the classical frameworkwithin which theOttoman
economy operated. The guilds, as the fundamentalunit of production and
labour throughout the Ottoman territories,faced a series of challenges
severely threateningtheir traditionalsupremacy in these areas.Unlike their
counterpartselsewhere in theempire, theguilds of Istanbulwhose reasond'etre
was identifiedcloselywith thewelfare of the state,feltthe severeeffectsof the

changing time. In coping with these developments, notwithstanding the


gradual withdrawal of the state support, the guilds demonstrated a strong
mechanisms tomaintain theirtraditionalposition
vitalityand devised effective
in the market. In the process, they underwent a dynamic process of
transformationin theirstructureand operation duringwhich they resortedto
novel practices and procedures so as to readjust theirworkings to the changing
conditions of the time. This wholesale restructuringprocess which was
characterizedby dynamism and adaptationwas embedded for themost part in
the successful
manipulation of the statesupport,which was erodingby degrees

in thepost-classical era.Although the guildsmodified, sometimeswilly nilly,


some of the organizational practices and procedures thathave facilitatedtheir
supreme position in the Ottoman market since the classical era, they
maintained some of their structuralfeatureswhich provided themwith a
room formaneuovre

and survival in this new era.

#$ #

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