In the early 1610s, communities of diplomats and traders with the status of müste’min (foreign resident) in Ottoman Galata were put on alert by the concerted attempt of certain Ottoman officials, especially the kadı of Galata, to extract from them the harac—the tax typically paid only by the ḏimmis (non-Muslim subjects of the sultan).
Interwoven into this legal and diplomatic crisis is another story that sheds an interesting light on the entire affair. In 1609 Spanish king Philip III proclaimed the expulsion of Moriscos—(forcibly) Christianized Spanish Muslims—from the Iberian peninsula, triggering a massive exodus of a large segment of population into North Africa, but also to Ottoman Constantinople, via France and Venice. Although Constantinople received a significantly smaller number of refugees than North African principalities under Ottoman suzerainty, the impact of the Morisco diaspora was disproportionally large. In Constantinople, the refugees were settled in Galata, in what appears to be a deliberate attempt by the Ottoman authorities to change the confessional make-up of this overtly non-Muslim section of the city. This is how the fierce economic and confessional competition among the local, already established trading and diplomatic communities and the newcomers began. The paper will reconstruct these competitive relationships on the basis of Ottoman, Venetian, and French contemporary sources by focusing on the incidents surrounding the attempted imposition of the harac on foreign residents and the attempted takeover of Galata churches by the Morisco refugees. It appears that the arrival of the Moriscos and familiarity with their plight in Spain prompted Ottoman officials to rethink the legal status and the notions of extra-territoriality in relation to religious identity in the Ottoman context as well.
‘Venice: September1616, 1-15’, Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice. Volume 14: 1615-1617, Allen B. Hinds (ed.). 1908, p. 287-296 [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=95953, accessed 29 April 2012]. This report is preceded on September 3, 1616 by a detailed description of the new decision to enforce more strictly sumptuary laws, especially when it comes to the Jews, Greeks and Franks. See SDC, Busta 81, 378r-381v.
VGMA1722, 11. The sum figure given is 110 545 akçe. What is striking is the rate of 456 akçe at which harac (or cizye) was going to be charged (cizye for 205 müste’mins amounted to 93 480 akçe of the said sum figure while the rest were other taxes such as the annual household tax (avarız), wine tax, incoming ship tax, tavern tax, tax on sale between non-Muslims, and tax on slaves). (I thank Günhan Börekçi for helping me make sense of these tax names). If we take into account that at this time in Ottoman history cizye amounted to between 174 and 215 akçe, depending on the city and region of the empire, this was between twice and thrice more than anywhere else, which makes carazo to be levied from the müste’mins appear particularly punitive. On the amounts of cizye at this time see Jennings, Ronald C. “Zimmis (Non-Muslims) in Early 17th-Century Judicial Records: The Sharia Court of Anatolian Kayseri”. Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient, XXI, 3 (1978), p. 232-235.