An Involuntary Servitude Method and Its Historical Process in the Ottoman Empire: The Case of “Amele-i Mükellefe

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13th International Congress of Ottoman Social and Economic History (ICOSEH), Madrid, Spain, 1 - 05 October 2013, pp.106

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • City: Madrid
  • Country: Spain
  • Page Numbers: pp.106
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


This study focuses on the origins and process of “Amele-i Mükellefe” as an involuntary servitude which was implemented by Ottoman central administration in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the context of “Amele-i Mükellefe” as an involuntary servitude method, people in the Empire were forced to work in road construction. This method in road construction which had started in 1862 and became an imperative practice that included unpaid work in every year for a given period of time. People could work in road construction as physically or could pay “Tarik Bedeli” (road tax) in cash to be exempted from this work. This payment was changeable according to the time period or the different regions of country. For Ottoman governments, the most important aspect of legitimation of involuntary servitude was the benefit principle. Also, the various government records report that people who live around the construction area would reap the benefits of the roads at the most. Furthermore, in the 19th century, involuntary servitude was not peculiar to the Ottoman Empire. For example, countries like France, Belgium and England had involuntary servitude programs with little differences in road construction on their citizens. In this study, we will firstly present economic and fiscal data on the importance of Amele-i Mükellefe for Ottoman economy, public finance and public works. Besides, in terms of the main working principles and process of this implementation; main differences and similarities between the European nations and Ottoman Empire will be emphasized. The changes over time, main corruptions experienced in practice and legal arrangements to prevent these corruptions will also be our subject. Additionally, the practice of “Amele-i Mükellefe” for western and eastern provinces will be examined in a comparative way. By this way, the effects of regional welfare differences on this implementation in the Ottoman Empire will be discussed.