This paper defines the category of imperial waqfs in the Ottoman waqf system. This category comprises the waqf complexes founded by the sultans, dynasty members and high-ranking state servants. A distinctive feature of imperial waqfs is the amount and variety of sources of income devoted to these institutions, so that consequently their huge budgets outweighed the budgets of thousands of ordinary waqfs. Their financial resources allowed them to provide diverse and costly charitable services and to emerge as economic and social institutions extending their influence over several towns and wide rural regions. Their economic, financial, and even charitable activities created a field of economic influence through the redistributive mechanisms of waqfs. This economic field and its influence are called the waqf economy in this paper. Some of the largest imperial waqfs were under the supervision of central offices and their institutional organization and administration was more sophisticated than the other waqfs. Organizational and administrative hierarchy and the delegation of authority over multiple levels of this hierarchy in the imperial waqfs, in the centrally-controlled waqfs in particular, gave rise to an agency problem. The imperial waqfs designated additional control and monitoring systems and an efficient incentive mechanism in order to solve the agency problem.
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