Limits of the Almighty: Mehmed II's 'Land Reform' Revisited

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Oktay Özel
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This paper reviews the reform attempt that took place in the Ottoman Empire during the last years of Mehmed II (1451-81), which is generally referred to as a "land reform" in Ottoman historiography. First, it emphasizes that the freeholds, the main target of the said reform, were 'revenue-holdings' not land-holdings. Second, based on the examination of a tax register belonging to the Anatolian province of Amasya, it shows that the reform brought no fundamental change in the existing revenue holding system, let alone in the land relations, which remained entirely outside the scope of the reform. Finally, the article describes Mehmed II's attempt, insofar as reflected in north-central Anatolia, as no more than a somewhat superficial "fiscal" reform, which eventually resulted in failure upon his death, revealing the vulnerability of the positions of the sultans in their struggle for power against the centrifugal forces in the Ottoman Empire.

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