The aim of the present study is to reconsider and reconstruct the economic history of the “decaying” Ottoman Empire during the Tanzimat period. Scores of scholars have already interpreted the decay in terms of imperial expansion. The decay paradigm is part of empire histories. Therefore, it is strongly imprinted with political discourse.
Below, I will argue that the Ottoman case would be better understood if viewed within the context of a more dynamic process of change versus inertia rather than decay, and that such an approach to Ottoman economic and social history would be less tainted with political concerns.
The ultra-nationalist approach to Ottoman economic history, has always blamed the 1838 Anglo-Ottoman Commercial Treaty for the “under-development” or “dependency” of the late Ottoman Empire. This scenario with a xenophobic hint and backed by Marxist as well as nationalist historiographies, finds the main scapegoat of modern Ottoman-Turkish economic history in the 1838 Treaty.