Sources and Issues Quantitative Data

Sources and Issues Quantitative Data

(Late Ottoman Censuses)

Two other important Ottoman archival have been delved into, for the purposes of this book: The archives of the religious court (¥er’iye Sicili Arœivi) for the Davud Paœa District, spanning the period from 1782 to 1924, and the 1885 and 1907 late Ottoman Population Census (Tahrir-i Nüfus) documents. The censuses and registration schemes developed in the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the nineteenth century provide a rich source of data for historical studies. The two late Ottoman de jure censuses (tahrir-i nüfus) of 1885 and 1907 and the population registers that were built upon them comprise a rich array of information on many aspects of Ottoman population and society.37 Until recently, these data had been utilized only in a superficial way.38 Census-taking was an age-old Ottoman habit and a census of each newly conquered territory was indeed taken in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

But these early counts were done for the purpose of assessing agricultural output and potential tax returns. Besides, they were discontinued after the first decades of the seventeenth century.
The two censuses of 1885 and 1907 were in fact the first empire-wide censuses designed specifically for purposes other than either taxation, agricultural revenue assessment, or military conscription. They were the first “modern” censuses in which precise demographic and social information was col-
lected for each individual. All census registrations were nominative and they permit, therefore, the reconstruction of family and household structures. The 1885 census was also the first to record information about females. Individuals were recorded as members of residential groups of various types, the most common of which was the house or household (hane). The houses and other premises were all registered together by neighborhood and street address, and these are very helpful in drawing the social topography of the neighborhood.
Registration in the Ottoman capital during these two censuses is known to have been quite thorough, both for males and females. Strict measures were implemented to make sure that the census officials carried out their tasks. Each registered individual was then issued with a sort of population certificate (nüfus tezkeresi), which was a combination of a birth certificate and an identification card. This certificate was later to become an essential document for transacting all official and legal business, buying and selling property, seeking government employment, obtaining travel documents, and so
forth. There is reason to suppose that census regulations were most strictly applied in the capital-city. In the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle, for instance, both the local headman and the imam of the mosque assisted the census officials in the registration process and signed the local census register upon completion of the operations as a testimony of the exhaustivity of the count. The data from these censuses are the most reliable source for the study of population, households, and families in late Ottoman society.
The basic rosters for the 1885 and 1907 censuses in the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle are kept intact in the Population Registry (Nüfus Müdürlü™ü) of the Fatih District of metropolitan . These two late Ottoman censuses were designed to also function as permanent population registers, probably
under the influence of Quételet’s Belgian population registers, and the census totals were to be regularly updated with the day-to-day registration of all subsequent vital events. All births, deaths, and in- and out- migrants to and from each neighborhood and city were to be recorded on the basic census rosters and these were to be kept in situ. The total failure of the postcensus registration schemes, however, stand in sharp contrast with the thoroughness and the reliability of the initial census registration itself. These rosters, which contain personal and confidential information, are still protected by a privacy aw. They have not yet been turned over to the Ottoman Archives of the Prime Ministry and are not yet, properly speaking, public archival documents. They can be consulted by special permission only.
We have done an exhaustive and systematic transcription of both the 1885 and the 1907 census documents for the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle. In the 1885 census, the non-Muslim population of the neighborhood was registered in a separate roster, which is unfortunately lost. As to the 1907 census, there is only one basic roster that contains both the Muslim and the non-Muslim inhabitants of the neighborhood. In 1885, the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle had 925 registered Muslim inhabitants and, in 1907, a total of 1,160 inhabitants, 1,039 of which were Muslim.

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