Growth and retardation in the Ottoman economy : the case of Ottoman Selanik, 1876-1912
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Selanik became one of most modernised and dynamic regions of the Ottoman Empire. With its tightly knit marketing networks and extensive railway systems, relatively well-developed financial markets, fluid land market, modem factories, burgeoning urban areas and port-cities, Selanik had clearly become one of the leading commercial regions of the entire eastern Mediterranean basin by the turn of the twentieth century. Two primary forces underlay the process of economic modernisation in the region, namely the capitalist world economy and the reform efforts of the Ottoman government. Enhanced integration with the world economy brought new opportunities and helped bolster economic modernisation in the region. The reform efforts and infrastructure investments of the Ottoman state also contributed to the moment of commercialisation and modernisation. Notwithstanding the impressive dynamism and apparent modernisation of the regional economy, serious processes of retardation and backwardness also surfaced rather strongly during the same period. Ironically, the very same forces that generated much dynamism in the regional economy also prepared the structural ground for retardation and backwardness. More specifically, the growing moment of commercialisation and enhanced integration with the world capitalist economy created serious dislocations in the agrarian economy and prepared ground for economic retardation. Likewise, the organisational, fiscal and diplomatic weakness of the Ottoman government undermined the existing potential for economic development and growth. Thus, a dual economic structure emerged whereby facets of "modernity" and growth meshed with those of economic retardation and backwardness. The socioeconomic tensions and contradictions building up in this process prepared the structural background to the dissolution and eventual collapse of the Ottoman rule in the Balkans. In other words, the sporadic fits of modernity and growth could not be sustained, given the overwhelming dominance of European economic interests and the apparent weakness of the Ottoman state. The conflict ridden transformation process simply erupted in uprising, revolution and war.