Erdoğan Keleş

Keywords: Ottoman, European Trader, commerce, privilege, monopoly


Since old times, the commercial activities of the Ottoman State were under the domination of foreign traders and as they knew foreign language, they had always a say in commercial activities. On the other hand, Muslims not having a capital accumulation and not knowing foreign languages were not able to be dominant in the foreign trade. Though foreign traders were granted rights to conduct commercial activities within the Ottoman State with the capitulations, they were confronted with some obstacles. Among these, the most important one was foreign traders' not knowing local Ottoman languages and methods of conducting commercial activities. As a result, foreign traders became dependent on intermediaries mostly Greeks of Turkish nationality. This resulted with the dominance of another class together with foreign traders in the Ottoman commercial life. After III Selim came to the throne, he created the class of European Traders from Ottoman citizens in order to break the monopoly of the class of foreign traders and their associates. In this way, till the mid-19th century, the dominance of foreign traders were weakened with the efforts of non-Muslim Ottoman citizens knowing the methods of conducting commercial activities and foreign languages. Yet, following Ottoman-English commercial treaty in 1838, the foreign traders started to gain their power again. In the present study, we aim to reveal what rights and privileges the European traders had in the mid-19th century and what obstacles they faced while conducting their commercial activities.