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Population Changes in Ottoman Anatolia during the 16th and 17th Centuries: The "Demographic Crisis" Reconsidered

Population Changes in Ottoman Anatolia during the 16th and 17th Centuries: The "Demographic Crisis" Reconsidered Author(s): Oktay Özel

Source: International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 36, No. 2 (May, 2004), pp. 183-205

Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3880031

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Int.J. MiddleEast Stud.36 (2004), 183-205. Printedin the UnitedStates of America DOI: 10.1017.S0020743804362021

Oktay Ozel















The historiography of the past two decades of the demographichistory of 16th- and 17th-century OttomanAnatoliahas seen diverseandoften conflictingargumentsamong historians.Whetherthe Ottoman Empire witnessed "populationpressure" in the 16th century, and whetherthis was followed in the 17th centuryby a serious "demographic crisis," considered by some historiansas a "catastrophe," have constitutedthe central theme of the debate. The roots of these issues can be tracedas far back as the early worksof Omer Liitfi Barkanin the 1940s and 1950s.1It appears thatthe disagreements not only aroseas a resultof the differentmodels of historical demographydevelopedby diverseschools of thought, but that they also owed much to the highly disputed nature of the sourcesthat provide the bulk of quantitative datafor the demographichistory of the Ottoman Empire.2 When looking at the sources, one immediately realizes that the central part of the debatefalls into the realmof what is known as "defterology,"3 a sub-field of Ottoman

historiographycovering worksbased on the series of Ottomantax

the 15th and 16th centuries (tahrir defters). Barkanwas the first historianto present these sourcesto the world of Ottomanists, in the 1940s.4In his seminal article"Tarihi DemografiAragtirmalari ve Osmanli Tarihi," he presented the preliminary resultsof the painstaking workof his teamin istanbul on a whole seriesof defters of the 16th century. Also discussing some methodologicalaspects of Ottoman demographichistory and its sources, Barkan pointed in that articleto the main trendsof population movementsin the Ottoman Empire in that century. However, Barkan's pioneering workson Ottoman demographichistory were not fol- lowed until the late 1960s,5 when some historiansturnedto the same sources for their workson local history. The new explosion in the use of tahrir registers came from the 1970s onward, soon leading to the development of a separatefield-defterology-with its sophisticatedmethods, distinct terminology,and,inevitably,growing debates among the specialists.Thus, Ottomanhistorical demographic studieswere largelydeveloped as part of local-history researchandfocused primarily on the period betweenthe mid-15th andlate 16thcenturies.6During the past two decades,however,theresearchanddebates

OktayOzelis AssistantProfessorintheDepartment of History, BilkentUniversity,FEASS,Bilkent06800,

Ankara,Turkey; e-mail:oozel@bilkent.edu.tr.

registers,mainly of


2004 Cambridge

University Press 0020-7438/04




have expanded to include the 17th century,basing themselves almost exclusively on avartz and cizye registers, which untilthenhad attractedlittle attentionin demographic


Barkan'sarticle suggested substantial growth in the population of theOttoman Empire in the 16th century, and subsequent case studiesof variousdistrictsof the empire have

generally confirmedhis findings." Thetahrir registers of the periodclearly show doubling (in some cases even more) in the recorded tax-payingpopulation, in urbanand rural

areas, during the century.9 In his meticulous work published in developed the argumentthat,especially in the second half of the

parts of rural Anatolia, the populationgrew to the extent that it exceeded the amount of arableland availablefor cultivation.To him, this was an indicationof "population pressure."'0 This argument concurredin a sense with the view of Mustafa Akdag, who years earlierhad referred,thoughimplicitly, to the populationgrowth of the same period, which, according to him, resultedin the increasein the numberof peasants withoutland ((iftbozan levends). To Akdag, this was an important factorin the eventualbreakdown

of the innerbalance of the village economy and society, as well in the emergence of the ensuing Celali rebellions and widespread terrorin the Ottoman countryside at the turnof the 17th century.11 Thecorrelationthat Akdag establishedbetween demographic,

socio-economic factorsand political developments was later discussed-and

degree,criticized-by Halil InalcikandHuricihan Islamoglu-Inan.12 The maincriticism of Akdag's argument focused on the point thatthe early-17th-centuryphenomenon of the large-scale abandonmentof villages could notbe explainedsimplyby economicand demographic factors. Akdag's critics drew attentioninsteadto what are called "pull" factors, such as various opportunities that they thought the cities would have offeredto peasants, as well as to the peasants' desire to enterthe militaryclass, which would at

least guarantee thema steadyincome.13 At this point comes the importantquestion: what were the factors triggering the

peasant masses to leave their villages at the end of the sixteenth century,becoming

the main sourceof

that was to devastatethe Anatolian countrysidethroughout the 17th century?'4 As an explanation, scholarshaveoften referredto the increasing taxburdenandthe oppressive attitudesof local officialstoward peasants, bothof which appear to havebeen a general phenomenon of this period.'" Not rejecting theroleof these factors,Akdagdeveloped the argument thatthe expanding rural population could no longer be absorbed by the village economy, forcing many peasants to search for a living elsewhere. Inalclk, however, while accepting to a certainextent the role of demographicpressure,puts an emphasis on the desperate needof theOttoman government formoresoldiers using firearms during the long anddifficult years of warat the end of the 16th century.According to him, this needresultedintheformationof thesekbanandsarica troops, whichwouldsoon turn into Celali brigands. Thiscoincidedwiththe peasants' desireto enjoy the privilegedposition of the military class of thatsame period, even though the socio-economic position of the membersof the military was also deteriorating.'6

The final point of debate relates to 17th-centurydevelopments. A centraltheme is whetheror not one can speak of a "demographic crisis."The main discussionrevolves aroundtheeffects of the Celali rebellionsandfocuses on whatis termed "depopulation," which is generally consideredto be closely linkedto these rebellions.The debateover

1972, Michael Cook

16th century in


to some

manpower for the great Celali rebellionsand the widespread terror

Ottoman "Demographic Crisis"Reconsidered


the extentandnatureof the radicaldecreasein the recorded tax-payingpopulation was further developed by Bruce McGowanto the point of a "demographiccatastrophe."17


works on the Balkan lands, which were based nearly exclusively on the quantitative evidence provided in avartz and cizyeregisters, werelatercriticized by Maria Todorova.'8

While addressing once morethe disputed natureof these sources, Todorovausedthesame figures with differentcriteriaand centeredher criticism on the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the data offered by these registers;thus, she came to an opposite andno less controversialconclusion. She claimedthatone could hardlyspeak even of a considerabledecreasein Ottoman population in the 17th century, let alonea demographic catastrophe. In the following article, I will re-evaluatethe mainissues in this debatein the light of recent research,arguing thatallwere part of a complex historical phenomenon thatcannot be explainedby reductionist,single-factorapproaches andunfounded interpretations. I will also emphasizethat,although thereare many black holes in Ottoman demographic history, one can still reasonablyspeak of a generaldemographic crisis during the late 16thand early 17thcenturies.

somewhatcontroversial findings and interpretations in his









In her study on development in

of the Tokatand 4orum districts,argues that populationgrowth in the Ottoman Empire

neverreachedthe point of "pressure" thatwas described by MichaelCook.19 islamoglu- Inan'sview appears to have found a certain degree of support,becoming an argument

often referredto

suggests thatthe fragmentation of reayaCiftliks, which is clearly revealed by the tahrir registers, didnot necessarily meanthatthe peasants becamelandless.She further argues thatthe peasants in question reactedtothe worsening conditionsin termsof theimbalance between populationgrowth andtheinsufficientamountof arableland by (1) intensifying

cultivation;(2) reclaiming unusedandforestedlandsto cultivation; and (3) changingcrop patterns, or rationalizingagriculture, and alteringconsumption habits.2'She thenclaims that the populationgrowth did not reachthe extent of eventuallyforcing the peasants to leave their lands. The great increase in population in this respect is explained by the possibility of internalor westward migration and the sedentarizationof pastoralist nomads.22The increase in the numberof recordedcaba (landless married men) and miicerred(landless unmarried men) similarly is accountedfor by the possibility of an increaseddemandfor wage laborin the face of intense cultivation.23 As seen in this argument,islamoglu-Inansuggests, first, thatthe peasant movements in Anatoliain the secondhalfof the 16th century were of a migratorynature; and second,

thatthe migration to cities during this period was in fact theresultof the "preference" of peasants,especially youngerones, who, underthe "drudgery of work"in the Anatolian countryside, chose to enter into the service of provincial administratorsas irregular

soldiers or join medreses (theology schools) as

thereforeshould not necessarily be seen as evidence of a subsistence crisis or of the

the dynamics of agriculturalproduction,populationgrowth, and urban 16th century north-central Anatolia,islamoglu-inan,referring to thecase

by otherOttomanists.20 In elaborating her argument,islamoglu-inan

students.24The migration of peasants

186 Oktay Ozel

inability on the part of the village economy to absorban increasingpopulation.25 Inother words,according to Islamoglu-Inan, we cannot speak here of demographicpressure. In saying this, however, she fails to note that the phenomenon of intensifying cultivation

and shiftingcroppatterns, which many other parts of Anatolia, can


main argument


accepted. Insteadof dwelling on the subsistence crisis, the apparentdrop in per-capita

production vis-ai-visa considerablerise in prices, the fragmentation of peasantfarms, andthe increasing numberof landless peasants,27she focuses on how populationgrowth affected the peasanteconomy and relationships in the Ottoman countryside.28 While analyzing thereasonsbehindthe migration fromruralto urbanareasin Anatolia, shetries to minimizethe extentof demographic factorsbehindthis movement, thus rejecting the

thesis of populationpressure. In doingthis, she seems to overemphasize the possibilities mentionedearlierinsteadof attempting a closer analysis of the evidence providedby the sourcesshe is using.29 The findings of recentstudiesof the neighboring north-centralAnatoliandistrictsof Canikand Amasya, as well as Islamoglu-Inan's own sources on the regions of Corum and Tokat,appear to support the argument for considerable demographicpressure, as suggestedby Cook particularly for north-centralAnatolia during the secondhalf of the 16th century.30 In that region, for example, the fragmentation of peasant farmsreached high levels, and the ever-shrinkingplots of land recordedin the name of certain peas-

ant households (hane) began households.3'In addition, the

increased, for example in the Amasya districtto nearly 40 percent of the totalrecorded households;moreover, this figure does not includeunmarriedadult men, who constitute nearly half of the recordedmale population.32

was seen during the secondhalf of the 16th century in alsobe linkedto economic and demographicpressure,

had previously

well as to developing marketsand monetarychanges.26However, the her work is not the analysis of certainhistorical phenomena thatshe

increasingly to be cultivated by more adult peasants or numberof landless peasant households (caba [-bennak])

Another point furtherclarifiesthe picture. In her study,

Islamoglu-Inan wrongly in-

terprets the term"caba"in the tahrir registers as "landlessunmarried man," whereasit clearly refersto "landlessmarriedman."33As a consequence, the proportion of unmarried

men in the total adult male population-for example, in the region of Tokatbetween

1554 and 1576-appears to reach70 percent,34 while in other parts of Anatoliain the

percent.35 This high percentage, which


period it variesbetween 20 percent and40

is difficult to explain, drops to about 45 percent when the term caba is taken in its

correct meaning as clearly defined in

question.36 This still significant rise in the numberof unmarriedmen is paralleledby a similarlevel of decreasein the numberof landlessmarriedmen in the very samedistrict

during the same period. In otherwords, the proportion of marriedmen in the totaladult male population in the Tokat countryside in 1574 shows a decreaseof nearly 30 percent compared with the situation twenty years earlier, while the numberof unmarriedmen increasedeven more in the same period.37 How can this be interpreted? One possible explanation couldbe that,during this period,young adultmenfoundit increasingly hard to get marriedunderthe worsening economic conditions,thus expanding the unmarried adultmale population. The remarkableincreasein the proportion of both landless andunmarriedadultmen in the centrallands of the province of Rum in Anatolia during the second half of the

the law codes (kanunname) of the province in

Ottoman "Demographic Crisis"Reconsidered


16th century is also observablein the

Amasya and Canikdistricts.38 According to the

tahrir registers for these districts, the proportion of miicerreds to the total adultmale

population in 1576 was 45.8 percent in Canik and 44.8 percent in Amasya. Similarly, the proportion of the landless marriedmen (caba) to the same total again in 1576 was

35 percent inCanikand31.7 percent in Amasya. Inother words, thecombined proportion

of unmarriedandlandlessmarriedmen among the totaladultmale population atthe turn of the last quarter of the 16th century was around80 percent in the Canik region and around76 percent in Amasya.39 Given the assumption that the proportion of young people (younger thanfifteen years)among the population as a whole was fromone-third to one-half in pre-industrialsocieties,40 these proportions of unmarriedmen in north- centralAnatolia may be seen as not significantly abnormal.But when taken together with the numberof landless married man, this obviously points to a seriousimbalance betweenthe population andthe economy. This in turnalso lends support to the notion,

first suggested by Mustafa Akdag and later cautiously mentioned as a possibility by Cook along with Leyla Erderand SuraiyaFaroqhi, of serious difficultiesin marriage conditions (late marriage or non-marriage) in the Anatolian countryside.41 Having said this, one observes in some cases a different picture of the changing proportions of differentsectorsof rural society in 16th-century Anatolia.In the western Anatoliandistrictof Lazlkiyye(Denizli) betweenthe 1520s andthe 1570s, for example, we see an extraordinary increase (159.59%) in the numberof households holding the minimumamountof land (abennak, orless thanhalfa farmstead), whilethe proportion of those holding a full farmsteadorhalf a farmsteaddecreased significantly(to 51.10%and 30.05%,respectively).Interestingly, thiswas accompaniedby a drasticfall in thenumber

of unmarriedadultmen (75.77%).42

In this case, it seems thatthe observed population

growth followed a different path. While the young unmarriedmen increasingly left their villages for brigandage or to fill the medreses as "students" (suhte) by mid-century43 (which meant that they went unrecordedin their villages), the increasing numberof

peasant householdswho stayed in their villages foundless

fluctuationsin the composition of the rural population of Anatoliain the secondhalf of

the 16th century indicatea situationthatcannotbe seen

developments, one clearly observes demographicpressure,although its consequences variedfrom region to region.

andless landto cultivate.Such

as "normal."Behind all these

There is furtherevidence that points to such pressure.Leaving aside the general


onward, one observes signs of dense settlement particulary in the lowlands and on high plateaus suitablefor cultivation.Some plots of land hithertouninhabitedor un- used, the mezraas, were eitherreactivatedas supplementary arablelandfor peasants of nearbyvillages or were increasingly turnedinto permanent settlements during the 16th century.44 One can addto this the increasing cases of lands newly opened to cultivation eitherfrom marginal landsor through the clearanceof woodland.45Parallelto this, there were instancesof semi-nomadicTurkoman groupsestablishingpermanent settlements (etrakiyevillages) in the mountain fringes, where they appear to have engaged in small- scale agricultureand animal husbandry.46Despite the silence of the registersas to the cause of such cases, this clearly shows thatarableland was expanding,probablyat the expense of pastureland,which was essentialto the pastoral life and economy. It seems that,in the Amasyaregion, for example, the densityof ruralsettlementobservablein the

populationgrowth that is evident particularly from the second quarter of the

188 Oktay Ozel

16th century was neverto be reached again, even by the turnof the 20th century.47In

addition, the urban population of this period witnessed a

are signs that big cities as regional centers, such as Tokat, received migrants of rural origin, most of whom are likely to havebeen the landless andunmarried peasants from the countryside mentionedearlier.It is highly probable that such cities continuedto attractthese people throughout the second half of the 16th century,48despite the efforts of the central government to prevent such population movementswith strictrules and regulationsdeveloped to maintainthe "pre-determined boundaries"of the social and economic orderin both ruraland urbanareas.49I think all this points to the fact that

Anatolia-at least, in thenorth-central parts-was under pressure from rapidpopulation

growth in the second

crisis in the Anatolian countryside. The demographicpressure therefore appears to be a historical reality in 16th-centuryAnatolia; it cannot simply be ruledoutas a hypothetical claim. It seems to have been a phenomenon thathaddiverseeffects throughoutsociety, including on urbandwellersand nomads, atleast in some parts of Anatoliain the second

half of the 16th century.50 In this context, it is not unreasonableto view these demographicchanges as a signifi- cantfactorin the spread of the great Celali rebellions, and especially in the continuous

terrorin the Ottoman countryside that began in the late

early 17th century. It also seems morethana coincidencethatthe humansourceof this

general devastationwas largely generatedby the changing conditionsin the Ottoman

countryside in the late 16th century.Populationpressure in this respect should seriously be considered.This importantsubject of discussiondeservesa separatestudy.However, it should be pointed out here that the "pull" factors suggested by Islamoglu-Inan and Inalcik, suchas the opportunities offered by cities to the villagers in difficulty, the urgent need of the Ottoman government for moresoldiers using firearms, andthe employment of already rootless peasants to this end, no doubt possess a certain degree of validity. It is evidentthatthe government's crucialdecision to resortto this destabilizedhuman element as a short-termsolutionto its military needs led to the dangerous mobilization of this "floating mass" in the Anatolian countryside at the turn of the 17th century. However, at this point it is perhaps more important to emphasize the very presence of

such a peasant mass in itself.

at the limits of survivalwhile searching for a betterlife elsewhere-were open, despite restrictions, to the attractivenessof outside factors.5" Finally, it is also evidentthatthis mass of peasants, the "surpluspopulation,"52who had alreadybegun to leave their villages in large numbersmore visibly fromthe 1580s onward, werenot only attracted by such "pull"factors;they also resortedto "other" ways of life, includingillegal activitiessuchas brigandage.53 A cursory look at the increasing records of such cases in miihimmeregisters of the period bears witness to this. It is highly likely thatthe "tiifenkendaz"groups(those who used firearms) thatthe Ottoman

governmentemployed were these levendsof peasantorigin, whose numbers appear to have been constantlyincreasing in the Anatolian countryside in the last quarter of the

century, or even earlier,ratherthanbeingpeasantswho, despite all difficulties,stayed in theirvillages to continuetheirmodestlife. Wedo not yet know,however,therealextent of the crucial phenomenon of what can be termed "levendization"in ruralAnatolia,



half of the 16th century. It also indicatesan apparent subsistence

16th century andescalatedin the

Many of these peasants-landless, unmarried, and living

seems to have developed moretoward independentbrigandage or employment as

Ottoman "Demographic Crisis"Reconsidered


sekbanandsarica in the retinuesof provincial administrators,54 ratherthanintermittent

employment as mercenaries by the government. It is therefore highly unlikely thatthe

peasants' leaving their villages

Celali devastation, can be fully explained by

real extent of this levendizationand without knowing how many of these groups were employedby the government as mercenarytroops andhow often.55It is also important in this context to keep in mind the criticaldifferencebetween the peasants'hopes and searchfor a betterlife in cities andthe despair that hopelessly scatteredthem in search

of other options such as brigandage. It can even be suggestedthat,compared with other opportunities in cities, brigandageper se was a more attractive option for them.

(giftbozanhk), which had intensified prior to the great

the "pull" factors without knowing the







While the rapidpopulationgrowth of the 16th century seems well established, research



population.56Signs of the change in thisdirectionareobservedfromthelate 16th century onward,becoming markedin the 17th century.57 The main argumentamong scholars dealing withthe subject hasfocussed primarily ontheextentof thedecreasein population. Historians working on this period refer again to the disputed natureof the sources, on the one hand, andthe problem of interpretation, on the other.How reliablearethe sourcesof

the 17th century-namely, theavarizand cizyeregisters, which provideonly quantitative datafor demographicdevelopments? How can the picture revealed by these sourcesbe interpreted? Some go furtherto ask whethertherewas any real decreasein population, while others present the decrease as an obvious historical fact, speaking of a serious "crisis"or even a "catastrophe." As mentioned earlier, McGowan developed the thesis of "demographiccatastrophe"

on thebasis of his examinationof these registers58belonging

starts by observing a dramatic drop in the taxable

andconcludesthatthis was a manifestationof a serious demographic crisis thatin some cases reached catastrophic levels. According to McGowan, this was mainly the result of (1) the long wars and chaotic events of the.period; and (2) the dispossession of the peasantry underan increasing tax burdenand exploitation.However, he does not rule out the possible effects of otherfactors that may well have contributedto this result,

such as famine, typhus or plague epidemics, or the climatic change in Europe which is generally called the "LittleIce Age." Some historiansclaim thatthis climate change manifesteditself in theOttoman Empire as increasing rainfallandunseasonable freezing andoccurrenceof heavy snow.59 Criticizing the approaches thattend to analyze the issue within the disputed context

various parts of the empire, including Anatolia, the Balkans, and Syria, points to

opposite phenomenon from the turn of the 17th

century onward:a serious fall in

to theBalkan provinces. He

population recordedin these registers

of the "17th centurycrisis,"Todorova, maintainsthat the changes the demographic structureof the Ottoman Empire during the 17th

understoodin such a framework.60 She argues that demographicphenomena have their own distinctrulesand chronology of development andthatthey shouldnotbe evaluated in terms of conjunctural economic and political developments.61 Therefore,it would be erroneousto link the populationgrowth of the 16th centurynecessarily to social progress, and adverse development to the so-called crisis. Referring to McGowan's

that took place in century cannot be


Oktay Ozel

argument, Todorovaraises a question: leaving aside the methodological problem of whetherthe population decrease can be considereda sign of demographiccrisis, did

such a population fall in fact occur in the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century? She

then goes on to question the extent

which the drop in population that is observed

in the available sources represented a real loss. To Todorova, this drop can well be accountedfor by certainhistorical developments of the period, such as migration and re-nomadization,large-scale abandonmentof villages by peasants, or theirevasion of registration.Similarly, the apparent fall she refersto in the non-Muslim population of the Balkansin this context may be seen to be a false decrease.62 The first point to be emphasized in this part of the debate is that the problem of interpretation of the relevant data, containedin the sources used by both McGowan

and Todorova, is valid for other similar material,including the tahrir registers. There is no doubt that every single piece of research requires the utmost attentionin this respect. It should be remembered,however, that the collections of sources employed

in this discussion belong to two periods-the

includes any part of the 17th century. The degree to which the nearly 170-year-gap


highly questionable.Furthermore, this line of argumentclearly says nothing aboutthe

short-termfluctuationsthattook place in the Ottoman Empire in the

half of the 17th century. To develop a more meaningful andsound argument,therefore, one should make use of the same kind of sources for these periods or searchfor other sources availablein the Ottomanarchives. Recentresearchhas revealedthe importance of a new series of archivalsources.The most significantperhaps are the detailed avariz registers, which appear to have been compiled for the first time for various parts of the empire in the first quarter of the 17th century andcontinued during the rest of the century. These are differentfromthe summary-type avariz-hane registers used by McGowan. Prepared in the same way as the tahrir registers of the previouscentury, the detailedavariz registers enumeratethe entire tax-payingpopulation as "nefer"(adultmen, marriedand unmarried) in various categories, as well as the membersof the ruling class (askeri) who in one way or another held possessions liable to avariz taxes or extraordinarylevies, which were turnedinto regular annual payments sometimearoundthe turnof the 17th century.63 Thefew studiesundertakenon thesesourcesin comparison withthetahrir registers of the late 16th centurypoint to a radicaldecreaseof around80 percent in therecordedtax- payingpopulation of the north-centralAnatoliandistrictsof Amasya,Canik, andBozok in the firsthalf of the 17th century, with a correspondingfigure of around70 percent in the districtof Tokat (See Table 1).64 Inthecase of Amasya, 30-40 percent of the villages that existed in the 1570s appearby the 1640s to have been abandonedor ruined.A similar pattern,though less dramatic, is observablein the neighboring districtsof Canik, Bozok, and Tokat (See Table 2)."6 A significantportion of the villages in the district of Amasya, some of which seem to have disappeared, were those that emerged in the period of the 16th-centuryexpansion with relatively smallnumbersof inhabitantseither on fertile plains or high plateaus.66This was accompaniedby the disappearanceof the etrakiyevillages of themountain fringes.Similarly, thereis evidencethattheTurkomans of the Bozok region of centralAnatolia,who had graduallyadopted a sedentarylifestyle during the 16thcentury, had largely returnedto nomadiclife by the mid-17th century.67


1530s and the 1700s-neither of which

these dates allows us

to analyze the long-termdemographicdevelopments is

late 16thandfirst

Ottoman "Demographic Crisis"Reconsidered


Changes in tax-payingpopulation betweenthe 1560s and the 1640s (in nefer)a















Samsun (sancak)c

Bozok (sancak)


3,868 (1,258)

2,835 (1,069)

1,783 (770)

1,176 (524)

833 (248)


97 (42)


1,965 (403)

28,449 (12,923)

39,609 (18,063)



15,379 (4,147)



957 (33)

317 (30)


134 (58)



6,068 (833)

6,617 (1,181)

4,621 (252)

1,476 (615)














aFigures in parentheses indicate the numbersof unmarriedadult men already included in the totals. To make the comparisonmeaningful, I have excluded a numberof askeris recordedin the 1642 register.Therefore, the figures in bothdates presenttax-payingreaya only.

bThe exceptional increasein the population of the town of Gedegra is apparently due to its

top-hill location.Withits natural protection, it

displacedpopulace from nearby settlementson the low plains. CThe kazasof Unye and Terme, which do not appear in the 1640s registers, arenot included in these totals. Also note thatthe kaza of Arim in the 1640s corresponds to roughly half of its areain 1570. The other parts of the kaza were dividedin the 1640s into new kazas, which do not appear in the registers. This is also the case for the figuresgiven in Table2.

musthave servedas a perfectrefuge for the

It should not be forgotten that this was a period with a numberof extraordinary

historical developments,mainly connectedwith the Celali depredations. It is the period in which the sources increasinglyspeak of frequent "Celaliinvasions"andof members


their retinuesof hundredsof horsemenunderthe pretext of inspection. At the mercy of the Celali bands and these brigandofficials, the peasantsdispersed("perakendeve

the provincialmilitary-administrative class (ehl-i irf) roaming the countryside with


Decrease in the number of villages between the 1570s and the 1640sa



Canik (sancak)

Bozok (sancak)













aNote that the numbersfor the 1640s include the "new" villages appearingonly in the survey of this date, although some of them may have been the old settlementswith new names.

192 Oktay Ozel

perigan olub"), leaving their villages en masse ("celdy-i vatan idiib"). City dwellers were not immuneto such attacks, either. Contemporary sources unanimously referto the famines frequently witnessed in the countryside and to the enormous damagethey

causedto thestate treasury( "memlekete kitlik,devlethazinesine kiilli zarar gelmegle").68 Furthermore, the combinedeffects of these events on ruralstructureand village life in

the Anatolian countryside are likely to have had an adverseeffect on the

real extent of which may neverbe knownbecause of the shortcomings of the available sources.To this shouldbe addedthe increasein the deathrateunderconditionsof con- stantand widespread Celali terrorand wars, which would have affectednot only adult men, but also women, children, and elderly people-that is, those who were most vul- nerableto humanandnaturalcalamities.69 All of thesetaken together withthe possibility

of the phenomenon of late marriageturning into one of temporarynon-marriagepoint to extraordinary historicalcircumstances. Compared with the general conditionsof the 16th century that allowed,mainlythroughmilitaryexpansion, the growingpopulation to integrate into an expandingsystem, the 17th century was a period of shrinkingmilitary andeconomic resourcesthatcreatedthe conditionsfor a general crisis and depredation. Contrary to Todorova's argument,therefore, it is not mere speculation to speak of a generaldemographic crisis-at least, for OttomanAnatoliain the firsthalf of the 17th century. Whethersucha crisis was a generalphenomenon in the entire empire in this period- and, if it was, whether there was any degree of recovery during and after the time

of Kiprtillis

birthrate, the

in the later part of the century-can be shown only through furthercase


The question of the extentof the Celali terrorthat appears to have continued

throughout the 17th century in different parts of the empire should be kept in mind when examining the problem.Particularlyimportant in this respect is the extent of the terror'sdestructiveeffectsonrural structure,"given thefactsthattherural economy, both

agricultural and pastoral, was the main source of wealth for the imperialtreasury and thatthe complex relationships of revenue distribution, which constitutedthe backbone of the whole military andadministrativestructureof the empire, were based mainly on the stability of bothrurallife andthe economy. Also crucialis the frequency of natural disasterssuchas famine,epidemics,drought,earthquakes,floods, and heavy snowin the Ottoman Empireduring the 17th century.72 It should immediately be pointed out, however, that the apparent decrease in the recorded tax-paying population in the early-17th-centuryregisters employed in this study does not necessarily imply that 70-80 percent of the rural population simply died as a result of wars or naturalor human-madedisasters.A significantproportion of this "loss"in populationmay well be accountedfor by manypeasants'forming the human source of the hundredsof Celali bands that were still active in the Anatolian

countryside at the time of the surveys in

simply have evaded registration, thus going unrecordedin the registers. One can only speculate about this point. Nevertheless, the early-17th-century loss of population as reflectedin the contemporarysurveyregisters and interpreted in this study is too high to be explainedonly by such possibilities. Even if these are takeninto account, it is more than likely thatthe picturepresentedby these registers still remainsthe most significant evidencefora serious demographic fluctuationin OttomanAnatoliaattheturnof the 17th


the 1640s. Alternatively, some peasantsmay




Ottoman "Demographic Crisis"Reconsidered





Let us turnat this point to the larger context of the natureof these demographic devel-

opments.Inalclk considersthe case of late-16th-centuryoverpopulation in

or, as Cook puts it, the apparent imbalancebetween economic resources and the in-

creasing population-to

complications.74Considering Carlo Cipolla's assertion that, in pre-industrialagrarian societies, fluctuationssuch as suddenanddrasticfalls in population could be expected

when populationgrowth exceededcertain limits,7 it seems quite reasonableto approach the extraordinarydemographicmovements, whether rapidgrowth or drastic fall, as two

phases of a general crisis.76 Approached from this perspective, the

thatCook suggests forthesecondhalfof

of such a crisis in OttomanAnatolia. In the light of the findings of recent research,

the period from the mid-16th to mid-17th century, with its up-and-downswings, may thereforebe considered a period of general crisis in the demographichistory of the Ottoman Empire-a crisis whose first stage manifesteditself in the form of "pressure"

(or overpopulation), andthe second stage in the formof "implosion"(or depopulation).

If true, does this takeus backto the neo-Malthusian "populationcycle," whichhas long

constitutedthe centralthemeof scholarly debatesin demographic studies?77 The scope of the presentstudy is limited to the re-interpretation of old evidence in

the light of new evidence concerning the 16th- and 17th-centurypopulationchanges in OttomanAnatolia in the hope that it will contributeto the revival of the debate

amongspecialists.Althoughtaking the present examination beyond this point deserves

a separatestudy, it is not totally withoutbenefit to make some brief

questions to place the Ottomancase in the wider theoreticalcontext of the worldwide

population movementsin the early modern period. Theroleof populationchanges in history hasbeena subject forboth demographers and historianssincethe publication of theclassicworksof T.R.MalthusandDavid Ricardo.78 Based on their arguments aboutthe natureof population movementsin history andthe

relationships between population andthe economy, which have often been regarded as too mechanicalto comprehend the complex natureof historical development and explain

its diversity, there emerged in the

refinethe MalthusianandRicardian demographic "laws"orto refutethem categorically.


be an overall "population crisis" with social and economic



the 16th century canalsobe

remarkson these

20th centurymany revisionist attempts to modify or

The resultantdebates among scholarshave thus evolved aroundwhat is termedthe

"neo-Malthusian" approach,among whose principal defenderswere historianssuch as EmmanuelLe Roy LadurieandM. M. Postan.79It was mainly on theirworks concerning

late medieval and early modernFranceand

the late-1970s a counter-argumentrejecting the primary role of demographicchanges in the rise of Europeancapitalism in general and in income distributionin particular. However, he never categorically denied the importance of what he referred to as "demo-economic"trends in long-term historical developments.80 What he sharply criticized was the mechanistic application to history of demographicmodels, which have almostbeen exclusively associatedwith Malthusvia Le Roy Laduriein particular. With the participation of other speci