For the study of Ottoman society, the urban economic and social system and the activities of its main components (raya and askeri), are of prime importance. The level of urbanization in the 18th-century Ottoman Empire and the economic state of the urban population however seem to be almost entirely neglected topics in present-day research. The so-called classical period (15th - 17th c.c.) is much better studied from different points of views - administrative, economic, demographical, fiscal, etc. This is almost equally true about the Tanzimat period, partly due to the availability of numerous historical sources.
Because of the importance and interest in these two periods, stemming, among others, from political considerations, the immediate pre-Tanzimat era has been altogether neglected. As a result, little is known about the size of the population, the social and economic differentiation, the social and professional activities of the citizens, as well as the changes in these activities, the level of prices and the cost of living in the 18th-century Ottoman Empire.
The proposed project will focus on these issues through case-studies of the towns of Sofia, Ruschuk and Vidin which happened to play a significant role in Ottoman political and economic history. The case-studies of the social and economic history of these cities will contribute to delineate the economic model of the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century.
Moreover, Ruschuk, Vidin and Sofia are interesting cases because of their significant role in the Ottoman political history in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Two of the cities (Vidin and Ruschuk) were governed by influential ayans like Ismail Trusteniklioglu, Bayraktar Mustafa Pasha and Osman Pazvantolu. On the other hand, Sofia was a strict supporter of the central authority in Istanbul throughout the 18th century. The city was the home of the Sultan's forces, which were summoned against Osman Pazvantoglu at the end of 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries.
The project's first goal is to examine the demographic potential of the cities, the ethnic, religious and professional composition of their population (i.e., Muslims and Christians, soldiers and artisans, etc.).
The second and main aim is to build up the professional and ownership profile of the population and to create a "portrait of property" for different social groups - the askeri (the Ottoman ruling class), the reaya (the tax-payers), the artisans, the women. I will also try to elucidate their role and importance in the city's economic and social life, their activities in agriculture and involvement in crafts respectively.