Emergence of Capitalism in the Ottoman Balkans

The Ottoman Empire as a sui generis empire between the West and the East, not complying to either but carrying influences from both, has been an invaluable asset for the social scientists to understand historical developmentsIn that sense, the position of the Empire in the long 19th Century amidst modernisation/ Westernisation attempts and within the global capitalist system has been a highly debated topic. Ottoman modernisation attempts began in the second half of the 18th Century; nevertheless, it has become the official agenda of the Empire with the Tanzimat (lit. Reorganisation) Era starting with 1839. The ruling classes of the Empire have seen the West Europe as the model for the direction of the Empire while, on the other hand, making fundamental reforms in such a multifaceted social formation has not always been successful. Nevertheless, the position of the Empire in the global capitalism also played a role in the direction of the Empire’s change throughout the 19th Century. This talk discusses Ottoman economic development in this era by unravelling the story of capitalist industrial development in the Mount Vermion area, that is in the countryside of multicultural port city of Salonica. This is a very revealing story of a group of emerging capitalists belonging to the Greek Orthodox minority who managed to turn the Mount Vermion area, which did not even have proper railway connection, into one of the most significant textile industry regions of the Empire. As such this is not only the story of the capitalists of the region but also the story of modernisation and economic development in the Ottoman Empire during the long 19th Century.

Pinar Cakiroglu has graduated from the Middle East Technical University (B.Sc. in Economics) in Turkey and completed her graduate studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London (M.Sc. in Development Economics, Ph.D. in Economics). Her masters’ dissertation focused on the political economy of Turkey in the post-1980s’ neoliberal era with special reference to the emergence of Islamic bourgeoisie. In her PhD dissertation, titled “Industrialisation in provincial Macedonia in the late Ottoman Era: Economic, Social and Communal Factors”, she has worked on the transformation of Salonica region on the face of the changing global economy following the industrial revolution. She has worked in the METU, SOAS-University of London and University of Erciyes as teaching staff. Her research interests are economic and social history, political economy, long-term growth and development, industrialisation and the Balkans, Turkey and the Middle East. She lives in Mytilene, Lesvos.
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