ISSN: 0041-4255
e-ISSN: 2791-6472

Kaya Göktepe

Istanbul Medeniyet University, Faculty of Political Sciences, Department of Economics, İstanbul/TÜRKİYE

Keywords: Ottoman, prisoner, reconstruction, construction, labor, employment.


In the renewal process Ottoman Empire witnessed change and transformation in various areas. One of these areas was socioeconomic life. The need for modern physical places enhanced with the change and transformation process in Ottoman socioeconomic life over time. As a result of this situation, the state gave more importance to infrastructure and superstructure investments. Although the reconstruction and construction of the country gained importance with these developments during and after the Tanzimat, there were difficulties in the supply of workforce at a level that could meet the need. Hence, alternative labor resources, which were applied in earlier times as needed, became important. Prisoners were included in these alternative resources. In the Ottoman Empire, prisoner labor was first applied under the name of rower in the navy in the mid-sixteenth century. However, the role of prisoners in the labor market gradually declined with the development of ship technology as it decreased the need for prisoner labor. The re-importance of the prisoners in the Ottoman labor market took place with the Tanzimat Period. Behind this, the legal and economic factors were especially decisive. In this context, including the penalty of hard labor and schackles in the new penal laws in detail during this period increased the number of those sentenced to hard labor and shackles. On the other hand, the negative financial conditions of the state and the urgent need for labor made it possible to employ prisoners of hard labor and shackle in reconstruction and construction activities, which is one of the areas where the need for unqualified labor is felt the most in this period.

This practice, which is used as needed, later on, expanded to include the prisoners who were described as “vagrants” during the second Constitutional Monarchy Period. Ultimately, such developments led to the spread of prisoner labor in re-construction and construction activities.