Guest Lecture: Working in Ottoman Cities in the Mid-Nineteenth Century: Did artisanal production survive? Did religion matter?

The GWZO will be hosting Erdem Kabadayi of Istanbul Bilgi University for a talk, which aims to challenge the validity of two major assumptions of the nineteenth century Ottoman economic history from a labor perspective: the abrupt demise of Ottoman urban artisanal production and ethno-religious division of labor within that production.


The long prevailed stance in the literature associates the disappearance of Ottoman urban guild production in the nineteenth century closely with the free trade agreements with European powers. According to this dominant view industrial goods from Europe acquired an unprecedented, broad and facilitated access to the Ottoman domestic market via lower customs duties and these out-competed more expensive guild controlled Ottoman urban artisanal production.


The second assumption, ethno-religious division of labor, presupposes that ethnic and religious affiliation of Ottoman subjects were decisive factors in choosing or finding employment for the trades they were working in. Based upon this assumption spatial organization of urban guild production has also been envisaged as segregated along ethno-religious lines, which meant neighborhoods build upon artisanal division of labor.