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OTTOMANS AND THE INDIA TRADE IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY: SOME NEW DATA AND

RECONSIDERATIONS
Author(s): SALH ZBARAN and Salih zbaran
Source: Oriente Moderno, Nuova serie, Anno 25 (86), Nr. 1, THE OTTOMANS AND TRADE (2006),
pp. 173-179
Published by: Istituto per l'Oriente C. A. Nallino
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25818053
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SALH

ZBARAN
(IZMIR)

OTTOMANS AND THE INDIATRADE INTHE SIXTEENTH


CENTURY: SOME NEW DATA AND RECONSIDERATIONS
various scholars have published on various aspects of theOttomans
and the India trade,1much more research is needed in this field. The
aspect I shall consider here concerns registrationsof customs income collected
by officials and recorded in daily registers(riiznam es) at the ports and landing
places (mahsul-i iskele) in theprovinces ofYemen, Basra and Lahsa.
Although theOttomans seem to have established theirpower in certain parts
ofYemen immediately after their siege of Diu in India in 1538, the firstextant

While

governor's (beylerbeyi)budget only dates from 961/1560-61 and is thus the


earliest balance sheetwe have which gives figures concerning revenues from the
India trade.2Another budget forYemen, dated 1600 and published by Halil
Sahillioglu, provides some quantitative evidence for the customs duties obtained

atMocha, Aden, Hudaydah, Luhayyah, Jizan and other landing places.3 Unfor
tunatelywe do not have any furtherstatisticaldata concerning the trade between
theOttoman provinces around theRed Sea and theworld of the Indian Ocean,
apart from the budget of Egypt which was studied and published by Stanford
Shaw in 1968, and provided some quantitative data on the customs tax revenues

1 - Halil
Inalcik, and Donald Quataert, An Economic and
nalcik, "The India trade" in Halil
Social History of theOttoman Empire, 1300-1600, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994,
I.B.
under the Ottomans, London,
p. 315-363; Suraiya Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans: The Hajj
Tauris, 1994, p. 162-163; Robert Mantran, "R glements fiscaux ottomans: la province de Bassora

s.)", Journal of theEconomic and Social History of theOrient, X/2-3 (1967), p.


rule: a
Ilhan, "The Katif district (Liva) during the first few years of Ottoman
Ottoman
cadastral
LI/100
of
the
1551
781-800;
Belleten,
(1987),
p.
Dejanirah
survey",
study
in the 16th century", Studia,
Potache, "The commercial relations between Basrah and Goa
(2e moiti

224-277;

XXXXVIII

du XVIe

Mehdi

p. 151-161; Cengiz Orhonlu, Osmanli Imparatorluguhun Giiney Siyaseti:


niversitesi Edebiyat Fakiiltesi, 1974; Charles R. Boxer, "A note
Istanbul
Istanbul,
Eyaleti,
on
to the revival of the Red Sea spice trade and the rise of Acheh,
1540
Portuguese reactions
zbaran, The Ottoman Response
\6W, Journal ofSoutheast Asian History, X (1969), p. 417; Salih
(1989),

Habes

to
European Expansion,

Istanbul, Isis, 1994.

budgets of the Yemen


The Ottoman Response toEuropean Expansion, p. 30.
2-

Salih

zbaran,

"The Ottoman

in the 16th century",

in

zbaran,

3- Halil Sahillioglu, "Yemen'in


1599-1600 Yih Biit esi", in Ord. Prof. Yusuf Hikmet
1985, p. 287-319.
Armagani, Ankara, Turk Tarin Kurumu,

OM, XXV n.s. (LXXXVI), 1,2006, p. 173-179


Istituto
C. A. Nallino - Roma
per l'Oriente

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Bayur

SALM

'74

ZBARAN

concerning the period towards the end of the 16th century.4No cadastral survey
nor any customs registersof the province ofHabe
(i.e. of Ethiopia) have so far
been

found.

However, a cadastral survey (ional and mufassal) togetherwith a kanunname


prepared after the conquest of Basra in 1546 reflectswhat kind of goods came
from the Indian Ocean, what theOttoman customs regulationswere, and, per
haps most importanthere, how much income was collected from ocean-going

trade for the years 1551 and 1575.5


Apart from thispublished material, there is also some archivalmaterial in the
Ba bakanhk Osmanli Arsivi in Istanbul as yet unused by historians,which may
throw some light on theOttomans' India trade in the second half of the 16th
century.The data that Iwill use here is derived from certainOttoman budgets,
namely for the revenuesand expendituresof the ImperialTreasury of theProvince
of Yemen

varidat

(muhasebe-i

ve ihracat-i

hizane-i

amire-i

vilayet-i

Yemen),

cov

ering the years 969/1561-62, 984/1576-77 and the years between 1004/1595
96 and 1008/1599-1600, a ruznam e (a daily registerof revenues and expendi
tures)ofYemen, dated 1005/1596-97; one mukataat (revenues) registerofYemen
covering the years 1006-1008/1597-1600; and two mukataat of the Province of
Basra: thefirstone dating from 959/1551-52 and the other 1009/1600-01.
The Province ofBasra
The revenues (mukataa and mahsul) obtained in the iskeleha of the province of
Basra (including the district of Lahsa/el-Hasa) in 959/1551-1552 were recorded
in the summary (icmal) register6reflectingsome of the data in themufassal as
shown below inTable 1.
Table 1
Iskele or bender
Shatt al-Arab

(various

Shatt al-Arab-Basra
Basra

in ak e

iskeles) 8,573

passages

(from large vessels)

Sadr-i Sevib

Revenues

547,269

1,394,799

60,000

Kuma
Katif

120,000
35,000

Tarut

52,000

Total

2,010,641

Considering that the total amount of income obtained (or supposed to have
been obtained) in thewhole province may be calculated as 6,943,021 ak e, the
customs dues or the calculated revenues
gathered from tradewere then about 35
4 - S. Shaw, The
Budget of Ottoman Egypt 1005-1006/1596-1597,
1968.

The Hague-Paris,

Mouton,

"R glements fiscaux ottomans: la province de Bassora", p. 227 ff.


Mantran,
6 - Ba bakanhk Osmanli Arsjvi, istanbul (hereafter BOA),
no. 282, p. 12-35.
Tapu-tahrir
5

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'75

THE OTTOMANS AND THE INDIA TRADE

per cent, which can perhaps be considered a rather satisfactoryamount. We


must bear inmind that this incomewas obtained not many years after the estab
lishment of the province.We must not forgethere that this province of Basra
was of the salyane status inwhich emins and miiltezims (agents or salaried offi
cers in charge of tax collection) played a vital role in
collecting revenues.7
A shortpassage from the customs regulations (kanunname) concerning Katif
in 959/1552 may shed some light on theOttoman interest in the India trade,
sincewe have so farnot found any other kanunname prepared for those southern
frontierprovinces, namely Lahsa (as an independent province), Yemen and Ha
bes, (Ethiopia). The merchandise coming fromHormuz, Basra, Ebu ehir, Bah
reyn and other ports (into Katif) was taxed at six percent. Turbans, kiindeki,
cloth,

garments,

wheat,

rice

and

other

cereals

were

also

taxed

at

six percent.

Sixteen ak es was taken from each kilo of indigo. Dates loaded on boats and
destined for trade fromKatif or the environs of Katif were taxed at 16 ak es per
eight baskets. Traditionally oil had never been taxed, and this old tradition
appears to have been preserved,with no tax being imposed on oil in keeping
with this custom. Linen cloth, striped stuff,muslin and flaxen fabric or any
othermaterial passing throughorwoven and sold inKatif was taxed at two ak es
per 100. Merchant ships coming fromHormuz, India or any other distant or
an
neighbouring ports and anchoring in Katif had
anchorage tax imposed of
threemuhammedis per ship: of this one muhammedi, equal to 16 ak es,which
was levied by the agents of ah-bender (a provost of the seaport)was to be main
tained, but nothing more was to be taken from the labourers. In accordance
with this ancient regulation two muhammedis were to be taken for the treasury
(miri) and one muhammedi to be taken by the agents.8
Half a century later,we have a mukataat registerfor the province of Basra9
prepared on 10 Ramazan 1009/15 March 1601 and reflecting the iskele and
bender revenues of the previous year, i.e. 1600, inwhich the figures and places
appear as follows (Table 2):
Table 2
Iskele or bender

Bender ofNiksar (!)


Iskele of/in Basra
Iskele of Kuma
Iskele of Shatt al-Arab passage
Total

Revenues

in ak e
2,100,000

960,000
480,000
101,000
3,641,000

- See
my "Notes on theOttoman
practice of iltizam in the Arab lands in the 16th century",
in zbaran, The Ottoman Response toEuropean Expansion, p. 39-48.
8 - BOA, Tapu-tahrir, no. 282, p. 292 (See ilhan, "The Katif District (Liva)", p. 95).
9 BOA, Maliyeden M
dewer, 7541, p. 174-183.

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SA H

ne

ZBARAN

The whole income of the province for thatyear appears to have been 13,179,875
ak es, so that the percentage of the commercial income stands as 36 per cent

which almost equals the figurewhich appeared 50 years earlier.


The Province ofYemen

Figures for revenues obtained in the landing places of the province of Yemen
based on an Ottoman budget ofYemen dated 7Muharrem 971/27 August 1563
for theyear 969/11 September 1561 - 30 August 1562 are given inTable 3.10
Table 3
Iskeles Revenues

inpare

Mocha (withitsdependencies) 2,080,480


Hudaida

104,245
47,000

Hud (!)
Salif with Kamaran

100,501

168,331

Jazan
Aden

(with other revenues)*

1,555,000

Total

4,255,557

*Aden is given seperatelyand not included in the iskeleha.


Considering that the total in thatyearwas 31,730,951 pare (or 1263 surre),only
13 per cent of it seems to have been collected from customs charges. This is
indeed a very small percentage among the entries of revenues,particularlywhen
compared with the land tax (harac-i arazi), which is 67 per cent of the total. In
the year 984/1576, covering revenues from 1 Zilkade 983 - 30 Zilhicce 984/1
February 1576 to 20 March 1577 2,909,654 pare was collected from the trade,
i.e. 16 per cent of the total income, or 17,896,318 pare. There is an increase of
about three per cent compared with the year 969/1562, and again the largets
amount (63 per cent) comes from land tax.11
As we come to the lastyears of the 16th centurywe encounter balance sheets
in sequence

and

increased

amount

of money

in revenue

accounts.

The

following

table (Table 4) shows the revenues collected in various iskeles in the years 1004/
1595-96,12 1005/1596-9713 and 1008/1599-1600.14
10 - Topkapi
zesi Arsivi, Istanbul, Defter 314, fol. 10b-20b.
Sarayi M
11 - Topkapi
zesi Arsivi, Istanbul, Defter 314, fol. 3b-6b.
Sarayi M
12 - BOA, Maliyeden M dewer, no. 7092.
13 BOA, Maliyeden M dewer, no. 1382.
14 - BOA, Maliyeden M dewer, no. 7555 published inH.
Sahillioglu,
Yih But esi", p. 287-319.

"Yemen'in

1599-1600

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THE OTTOMANS AND THE INDIA TRADE

Table 4
Iskeles

Years

and revenues

1004/1595-96
Aden

Lahej
Mocha
Salif and Kamaran
Hudaida
and Is

Luhaiya

in sikke*

1005*/1596-97

1008/1599-1600

14,506

13,120

7,509

11,000

62,704
3,000

53,532

17,130
(includedwith
Aden)
87,057

1,312

1,080

10,187

10,442

6,500

4,209

4,038

3,609

3,600
1,500

1,600
500

2,600
630

2,700

1,500
600

846

109,915

97,644

106,457

Ferasan
Jazan

ShihrandHad
ramawt

Ahwar (!)
Hud (!)
Total**

*A sikke, i.e., gold coin, represented41 pares at the end of the century.
**
The figures given here aremy totals rather than the amounts recorded, some
what carelessly, in thedefiers.
Conclusion

By using the figures from the above tables, it is possible to arrive at various ra
tios.

Table 5
YearTotal income

Province
Basra
959/1551-52
Yemen
968/1561-62
Yemen
984/1576
Yemen
1004/1595-96
Yemen
1005/1596-97
Yemen
1008/1599-00

6,943,021 (ak e) 35
31,730,951 (pare) 13
17,896,318 (pare) 16

Basra
1009/1600-01

13,179,875 (ak e) 36

Percentage

668,479 (sikke)19
502,328 (toto;19
400,542 (sikke)21

How, then, can we evaluate these? From these percentages, it appears that the
income for the district of Basra in themiddle of the 16th century and in the last
years of the centurywas very similar.About one thirdof the provincal revenues
seem to have been collected at customs by emins or miiltezims, as recorded in the

middle years and the last years of the 16th century.We also know from other
sources, particularly travelaccounts, official lettersand chronicles, that commer
cial trafficthrough theGulf was active in the second half of the century.At that

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i78

SA H

ZBARAN

time quite a number of big ships (nzos)went toKatif, Bahrain and Basra and did

not

even

stop

as reflected

in Hormuz,

in

sources.15

Portuguese

In Yemen, on the other hand, the figures that I have given allow us to state
that the India trade in the second half of the 16th centurybrought in about 15
20 per cent of the income of the provincial budget ofOttoman Yemen, i.e. not a
large sumwhen compared with the expenditure on the huge military campaigns

undertaken earlier in the century, and on themaintenance of the land forces, in


We know also that the total income from
particular on the southern frontier.
these southern provinces, especially land taxes,was often insufficienttomaintain
control.

imperial

We have not greatly advanced the study of the history of the southernOt
toman expansion since the days of Fernand Braudel, Magalhzes Godinho and
Cengiz Orhonlu, and furtherstudies on the 16th and 17th centuries are needed
to place theOttoman commercial presence in the southernwaters in historical
context.We need both to develop a greater
understanding of the history of the
Ottoman southern expansion, and to see Ottoman historywithin a wider per
spective.Recent debates on the early imperial expansion of the Europeans and
theAsian potential have presented theDutch in their expansionist era, for in
as

stance,

truely

rational

profit-maximizers,

whereas

the

Portuguese

were

essen

tiallymedieval seekers afterpower. Can we reject this approach, put forward for
example byNiels Steensgaard, as Sanjay Subrahmanyam and Luis Filipe Thomaz
can we

do;16 and

adopt

the latters'

on Ottoman

arguments

expansion?

Subrahmanyam and Thomaz ask whether the Portuguese Asian empirewas


.
profitable or not... [and] profitable forwhom? Using Magalhaes Godinho's
studies

they point

out

that

the trade

in Asiatic

spices

accounted

for 27

per

cent

ofCrown revenues in 1506 and 39 per cent in 1518-19.17


Considering that a surplus (irsaliye)which occurred from time to time in the
of Yemen

province

was

very

small

percentage

in the balance

sheets,

and

con

sidering also that the Ottoman merchant marine beyond the limits of Basra,
Lahsa and Yemen hardly existed,18I would argue that the figures given above,
even though not
covering a longer period and or wider geographical area, allow
me to state that the limits of theOttoman economy in the Indian Ocean were
indeed

apparent.

15-Potache,

"The

commercial

relations between

Basrah

and Goa

in the 16th century", p.

159-161.
16 - Niels
and Luis Filipe Thomaz,
"Evolution of empire:
Steensgaard, Sanjay Subrahmanyam
the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean
during the 16th century", in J.D. Tracy (ed.), The Politi
cal Economy of
Merchant Empires, Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 298-331.
M

-Ibid,

p. 328.

18 - Svat Soucek, "The Ottoman merchant marine",


in C. Hillenbrand
our
Edmund
Vol.
Bosworth,
Leiden,
Brill,
2000,
II, p. 386-396.
ofClifford

(ed.), Studies inHon

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THE OTTOMANSAND

THE INDIA TRADE

/X

\\
\-j

179

al-Arab

^N^AShatr
fl

\
KBasraV-'*'

V/Tarut

\ Katif\

--

/( -

\ \ Feras n o \ _/
\ Jazan
\ \

I *u,!We
J
)1amaranov>Saht
^_^C-^\

v-^

Hadramawt

joHudaida
\ 1Mocha
x
J

X'

Shihr

Aden

I_I
Map of theprovincesof Basra and Yemen

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