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Sources and Contextualizations: Comparing Eighteenth-Century North African and Western European Institutions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 January 2017

Simona Cerutti
Affiliation:
École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (CRH/LaDéHiS, Paris)
Isabelle Grangaud
Affiliation:
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, (IRMC, Tunis)
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Our collaborative project originates in an attempt to articulate the intrinsic specificity of cases and contexts within a resolutely comparative approach. We focus particularly on what we believe to be the major limitation of comparison, namely the supposed need to rigidify the objects of comparison, to detach them from their contingent specificities and reduce cases to a set of data homogeneous enough to be compared. Our intent is to start a critical discussion regarding the hypothetical need to let go of specificity as the condition of comparison. With this in mind, we propose a comparative approach focused on sources rather than objects, and we consider them in terms of actions endowed with intentionality. The present study compares two institutions: the droit d'aubaine, and the Bayt al-mâl or Treasury, a traditional Islamic fiscal institution found in a number of Ottoman-era governments, whose prerogatives have typically been reduced to managing heirless estates and burying the poor. In theory, the aubaine and the Bayt al-mâl belong to distinct cultural and historical realms. Yet, as we demonstrate here, a careful analysis of the sources produced by each institution helps unpack these “cultural” constructions, produces new contexts in which both can be situated, and sheds light on the process of their construction and their amenability to comparison.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 2017 

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References

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7 Renouncing the comparative method became the basis for a redefinition of the nature and even the goals of comparison. Although comparison is valued as a reflexive activity that is implicit in every research endeavor, or as an analytical tool that seeks to denature objects and processes, its heuristic capacity is in peril when it is applied to the comparison of too wide a range of objects. Because their incommensurability can become an impediment, we agree that it “is always preferable to compare the difference of hierarchy of forms of evaluation within each culture under given circumstances”: Remaud, O., Schaub, J. F., and Thireau, I., “Pas de réflexivité sans comparaison,” in Remaud, O., Schaub, J. F., and Thireau, I., eds., Comparer (Paris: Éditions de l'EHESS, 2012), 1320, 19Google Scholar.

8 We are thinking in particular of Charles Ragin, who, by focusing specifically on case studies, has provided one of the best-grounded recent theoretical discussions of the conditions necessary for comparison: The Comparative Method: Moving beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987)Google Scholar; and Ragin, C., ed., Issues and Alternatives in Comparative Social Research (Leiden: Brill 1991)Google Scholar. See also his What Is a Case? Exploring the Foundation of Social Inquiry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992)Google Scholar.

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11 Bouchel, L., La conférence des ordonnances et édits royaux par Pierre Guénois, 2 vols. (Paris: E. Foucault, 1620), 1, 264Google Scholar.

12 According to Peter Sahlins, the history of the droit d'aubaine contributes to an understanding of the history of citizenship and nationality in France throughout the modern period. In fact, its abolition in 1819 coincided with the establishment of a clear distinction between the legal and political responsibilities associated with citizenship (Unnaturally French, xiii).

13 Archivio di Stato di Torino (AST), Sez. Riunite, Camerale Piemonte, Ubena, art. 492. The archive consists of some sixty bundles organized in alphabetical order, each containing several fascicles. They cover the period from the mid-sixteenth to the late eighteenth centuries. Cerutti perused all of these files and has transcribed some three hundred (including 150 for the period 1680–1730). These are of varying thickness, anywhere from a dozen to several hundred pages. See also AST, Sez. Riunite, I Archiviazione, Legge di Ubena, m. 1 and AST, I Sez., Materie Economiche, Ubena, m. 1–2.

14 Sahlins, Unnaturally French, 42.

15 Dubost, J.-F. and Sahlins, P., Et si on faisait payer les étrangers? Louis XIV, les immigrés et quelques autres (Paris: Flammarion, 1999), 80 Google Scholar.

16 This was explicitly stated in documents pertaining to property belonging to Jean Louis Point, born in Normandy and deceased in Turin in 1740. A grocer named Parolis, who notified the authorities within hours of Parent's death, “as is the custom,” came into possession of one-fourth of his estate (AST, Camerale Piemonte, art. 492, Ubena, m. 3, 1740).

17 Ibid., m. R-S-T/3, Testimoniali, 13 July 1735.

Ibid

18 This formula is featured in the title of the first file of the Tassinari trial: ibid.

19 This was stated by, among others, Antoine de Loysel and Pierre Jacques Brillon, quoted in Sahlins, Unnaturally French, 37.

20 For this consensus-seeking aim of judicial actions in the modern period, see Hespana, A. M., “Pré-compréhension et savoir historique,Ratthistorika Studier 19 (1993): 4967 Google Scholar.

21 AST, Camerale Piemonte, art. 492, Ubena, m. A-B1, 1697, Pietro Broglio.

22 For laws protecting the miserabiles, see Cerutti, S., “Justice et citoyenneté à Turin à l’époque moderne,” in Garavaglia, J. C. and Schaub, J.-F., eds., Lois, justice, coutume, Amérique et Europe latines (XVIe–XIXe siècle) (Paris: Éditions de l'EHESS, 2005), 5791 Google Scholar.

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25 In Old Regime societies, “It was for reasons of a successorial nature, and thus for strictly private interests, that legal rules evolved first. The theory of citizenship had to be defined for the sole reason that the settlement of a succession put its value into question.… In other words, an individual did not inherit because he was French; he was French because it was logical that he should inherit.” In Vanel, M., Évolution historique de la notion de Français d'origine du XVIe siècle au Code civil: Contribution à l’étude de la nationalité française d'origine (Paris: Ancienne Imprimerie de la cour d'appel, 1945), 4555 Google Scholar. Peter Sahlins cites this passage in Unnaturally French, 57, and in his article, La Nationalité avant la lettre: Les pratiques de naturalisation en France sous l'Ancien Régime,Annales, Histoire, Sciences Sociales 55, 5 (2000): 1081–108, 1096Google Scholar.

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28 Patrice Alex drew our attentions to the relative homogeneity of the perspective shared by the jurists that Peter Sahlins mentions, all of them confirmed royalists.

29 Dolan, C., “Famille et intégration des étrangers à Aix-en-Provence au XVIe siècle,Provence historique 35, 142 (1985): 401–11, 402Google Scholar.

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33 Establet and Pascual, “Les inventaires.” Again, for example, the institution of Bayt al-mâl is not considered in a book dedicated to the state's agents of the Egyptian province of the Ottoman Empire: Hanna, N., ed., The State and Its Servants: Administration in Egypt from Ottoman Times to the Present (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1995)Google Scholar; or in Raymond's, A. master book, Artisans et commerçants au Caire au XVIIIème siècle, 2 vol. (Damas: IFD, 1974)Google Scholar, which makes only two brief, marginal references to it (vol. II, 698, 782). The traces of the Bayt al-mâl can be essentially summarized as legal procedures that opposed heirs and representatives of the institution that claimed to be able to appropriate their successional rights. On the interpretation of these procedures for the Anatolian provinces of the empire, see Tamdogan, I.Qu'advenait-t-il aux biens des ‘étrangers’ après leur décès dans la ville d'Adana au XVIIIe siècle?Bargaoui, S., Cerutti, S., and Grangaud, I., eds., Appartenance locale et propriété au nord et au sud de la Méditerranée (Aix-en-Provence: Editions de l'IREMAM, 2015)Google Scholar, http://books.openedition.org/iremam/3396.

34 Grangaud, I., “Affrontarsi in archivio: Tra storia ottomana e storia coloniale (Algeri 1830),Società post-coloniali: ritorno alle fonti, Grangaud, I., ed., Quaderni Storici 43,129 (2008): 621–52Google Scholar; and Grangaud, I., “Masking and Unmasking the Historic Quarters of Algiers: The Reassessment of an Archive,” in Celik, Z. and Clancy-Smith, J., eds., Walls of Algiers: Peoples, Images, and Spaces of the Colonial and Postcolonial City (Seattle: Getty and University of Washington Press, 2009), 179–92Google Scholar.

35 Of the sixty-four preserved ledgers, only eighteen predate 1830 (most are from the early nineteenth century and the oldest dates from between 1699 and 1702), providing a record of activities in Algiers and within a 50 kilometer radius of the city.

36 LeTourneau, R.Bayt al-mâl, IV,” in Bearman, P. et al. ., eds., Encyclopédie de l'Islam, 2d ed. (Leiden: Brill, 1986), 1182–83Google Scholar.

37 Shuval, T., La ville d'Alger vers la fin du XVIIIème siècle: Population et cadres urbain (Paris: CNRS Éditions, 1998)Google Scholar; Merouche, A., Recherches sur l'Algérie à l’époque ottomane, I. Monnaies, prix et revenus (Paris: Éditions Bouchène, 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For a critique of historians’ interpretations of these records, see Grangaud, I., ed., La justice et ses écritures: Pratiques d'enregistrement à l'époque ottomane, in Revue de l'Institut des Belles Lettres Arabes (IBLA) 74, 208 (2011–2012): 119227 Google Scholar; Ze'evi, D., “The Use of Ottoman Sharî’a Court Records as a Source for Middle Eastern Social History: A Reappraisal,ILS 5, 1 (1998): 3556 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

38 Estève, Comte, “Mémoire sur les Finances de l’Égypte,” in Description de l’Égypte, État moderne, vol. 1 (Paris: 1809), 367 Google Scholar.

39 Khodja, Hamdan, Le Miroir: Aperçu historique et statistique sur la Régence d'Alger (Paris: Sindbad, 1985 [1833]), 116 Google Scholar. This verification was also noted by French authorities who had also observed the practice, “Rapport sur le beït el-mal,” Algiers, 6 Aug. 1836, Archives Nationales D'outre-Mer, Aix-En-Provence (henceforth FR ANOM), F80/1082.

40 At the beginning of the qa'ada al-harâm in the year 1200 (1786), FR ANOM, 15mi1, ledger 2. In a ledger created twenty years later, the term employed is al-manqurîn (those without heirs), FR ANOM, 15mi2, ledger 5.

41 Tyan, E., “La condition juridique de ‘l'absent’ (mafkûd) en droit musulman, particulièrement dans le Madhab hanafite,Studia Islamica 31 (1970): 249–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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43 Regarding ideological aspects, constructions, and possible alternatives, see Dakhlia, J., Le divan des rois: Le politique et le religieux dans l'islam (Paris: Aubier, 1998)Google Scholar; and Abbès, M., Islam et politique à l’âge classique (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2009)Google Scholar.

44 Powers, D., “Orientalism, Colonialism, and Legal History: The Attack on Muslim Family Endowments in Algeria and India,Comparative Studies in Society and History 31, 3 (1989): 535–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Buskens, L. and Dupret, B., “L'invention du droit musulman: Genèse et diffusion du positivisme juridique dans le contexte normatif islamique,” in Pouillon, F. and Vatin, J.-C., eds., L'Orient créé par l'Orient (Paris: Karthala, 2011), 7192 Google Scholar.

45 Powers, “Orientalism.”

46 Ghazaleh, P., “Heirs and Debtors: Blood Relatives, Qur'anic Heirs, and Business Associates in Cairo, 1800–1850,” in Hanna, N. and Abbas, R., eds., Society and Economy in Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean 1600–1900, in Honour of André Raymond (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), 143–58Google Scholar.

47 Ghazaleh, P., ed., Held in Trust: Waqf in the Islamic World (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2011), 9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

48 The source documents contain a few eloquent traces of such rival claims.

49 Larguèche, Abdehamid, Les Ombres de la ville: Pauvres, marginaux et minoritaires à Tunis (XVIIIe et XIXe siècles) (Tunis: Centre de publication universitaire, 1999)Google Scholar; Abdalwahad al-Muknî, “Al-madîna wa-l-ghurabâ’ fi al-‘ahd al-‘uthmânî. Mithâl Sfaqs fî al-qarn al-tâsi’ ‘ashar,” Revue d'histoire Maghrébine (Zaghouan), 337–52.

50 Along the same lines of Hanley, Sarah: “Engendering the State: Family Formation and State Building in Early Modern France,French Historical Studies 16, 1 (1989): 427 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

51 See, for example, Arin, F., “Essai sur les démembrements de la propriété foncière en droit musulman,Revue du Monde Musulmane 26 (1914): 277317 Google Scholar; Abribat, J., “Essai sur les contrats de quasi-aliénation et de location perpétuelle auxquels l'institution du habous a donné naissance,Revue tunisienne et marocaine de législation et jurisprudence 17 (1901): 121–51Google Scholar. For Ottoman Cairo, see Ghazaleh, P., Fortunes urbaines et stratégies sociales. Généalogies patrimoniales au Caire 1780–1830 (Cairo: Institut d'archéologie oriental, 2010), esp. 371 et seqGoogle Scholar. Tunis, Ottoman: Henia, Abdelhamid, Propriété et stratégies sociales à Tunis (XVIème–XIXème siècles) (Tunis, Publications de la Fac. Des Sciences humaines et sociales de Tunis, 1999)Google Scholar. Tunis, Medieval: Staevel, Jean-Pierre Van, Droit mâlikite et habitant à Tunis au XIV° siècle: Conflits de voisinage et normes juridiques d'après le texte du maître-maçon Ibn al-Râmî (Cairo: Institut français d'archéologie oriental [IFAO], 2008)Google Scholar.

52 Cerutti, Simona, Étrangers: Etude d'une condition d'incertitude dans une société d'Ancien Régime (Paris: Bayard, 2012)Google Scholar.

53 See, in particular, Todeschini, Giacomo, Visibilmente crudeli: Malviventi, persone sospette e gente qualunque dal Medioevo all'età moderna (Bologna: Il Mulino 2007), 205 et seqGoogle Scholar.

54 This has given rise to a certain number of anachronistic and myopic interpretations on the part of historians, one good example being the separation in wills of data concerning a pious bequest and instructions for burials from data regarding the transmission of assets. For a critique of this approach followed by Vovelle, Michel (in Piété baroque et déchristianisation en Provence au XVIIIe siècle: Les attitudes devant la mort d'après les clauses de testaments [Paris: Seuil, 1978])Google Scholar, see Torre, Angelo, Il consumo di devozioni: Religione e comunità nelle campagne dell'ancien régime (Venice: Marsiglio, 1995), p. 3 Google Scholar.

55 We thank Natividad Planas for calling attention to some of these sources.

56 While the debate about emic/etic is rich in the anthropological field, historians seem more reluctant concerning the issue. Ginzburg, Carlo is a remarkable example; see in particular “Our Words, and Theirs: A Reflection on the Historian's Craft, Today,” in Fellman, Susanna and Rahikainen, Marjatta, eds., Historical Knowledge: In Quest of Theory, Method and Evidence (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012), 97119 Google Scholar. For an approach linking emic and pragmatic perspectives, see Cerutti, Simona, “Microhistory: Social Relations versus Cultural Models?” in Castrén, A. M., Lonkila, M., and Peltonen, M., eds., Between Sociology and History: Essays on Microhistory, Collective Action, and Nation-Building (Helsinki: S.K.S., 2004), 1740 Google Scholar.

57 The classical reference is Barth, Fredrik, Process and Form in Social Life: Selected Essays, vol. 1 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981)Google Scholar. For a pragmatist approach to institutions, see Giana, Luca and Tigrino, Vittorio, eds., “Istituzioni,” special issue of Quaderni Storici 139 (2012)Google Scholar.

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