Seeing Like a Khedivate: Taxing Endowed Agricultural Land, Proofs of Ownership, and the Land Administration in Egypt, 1869

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Adam Mestyan Duke University Durham, NC USA

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Theories of state modernization rarely consider the relationship between sovereignty and government capacity. This paper focuses on the khedivate of Egypt, a semi-independent province in the Ottoman Empire. My claim is that endowed agricultural land was a useful tool of fiscal modernization for the khedivial government. The governors taxed and made such lands alienable for public purposes. In order to support this claim, this study uses an 1869 endowment certificate of Hoşyar, mother of Khedive Ismail, to examine the regulatory context of endowed agricultural land. Through an archival anthropology of Hoşyar’s certificate, I describe the legal layer of the khedivial land administration (the regulations about agricultural land) and the physiocratic layer (the proofs of ownership such as the taqsīṭ dīwānī and written land survey registers) in comparison with the Ottoman central administration. This case study thus contributes to the discussion about the compatibility of the Muslim endowment with modernization.

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