Nineteenth-Century Local Governance in Ottoman Bulgaria

Politics in Provincial Councils

M. Safa Saracoglu

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A comprehensive history of the provincial administrative and judiciary structure in Ottoman-governed Bulgaria
  • Draws on provincial documents from Bulgarian archives to reveal a well-connected provincial political and economic environment in which the local elite played important roles alongside state officials.
  • Provides a comprehensive discussion of the provincial bureaucratic and judiciary structure in Ottoman Balkans in the 19th century.
  • Explains the investment of the local elite in the 19th century transformation of the Ottoman Empire.
  • Provides an account of the main political structures in a key Bulgarian province at the eve of Bulgarian independence and in the midst of significant demographic movements involving the Turks, Bulgarians and the Adyghe people (Circassians).

This book provides a detailed exploration of the way in which administrative and judicial offices and practices provided an essential space for politics in 19th-century Bulgaria, securing local inhabitants’ participation with Ottoman imperial governance. Combining a wealth of primary documents in both Bulgarian and Ottoman Turkish, this is the first systematic and comprehensive study of the connection between imperially-designed institutions and local politics.

Acknowledgements Table of Contents Abbreviations Preface

1 - INTRODUCTION The Argument Vidin Structure of The Book

2 - CONTEXTUALIZING THE NINETEENTH CENTURY The Tanzimat Era: Marking a Crisis and a Transition Means of Production and Ottoman Social Formation From Tax Farmers to Tax Collectors The Liberal-Capitalist Ottoman Social Formation Governance, Official Print and Information Flow Conclusion

3 - SITTING TOGETHER: LOCAL COUNCILS AND THE POLITICS OF ELECTION IN THE COUNTY OF VIDIN The Many Parts of the Imperial Dominions: The County as an Administrative Unit The 1871 Regulation: The County as a Reflection of the Province Councils: Inevitable Dynamism? Councils: Conveying or Constituting Reality? Of Permanency and Change: the Politics of Election Conclusion

4 - ONCE INSIDE THE CHAMBER … : PARTICIPATION IN THE POLITICS OF LOCAL ADMINISTRATION Seals: Images of Participation? The Rationale for the Seals The Frequency and Synchronicity Right side up? Yearbooks: Reflections of the Judicio-Administrative Sphere. Conclusion: A Better Vision of the System?

5 - WRITING POLITICS: OTTOMAN GOVERNMENTALITY AND THE LANGUAGE OF REPORTS 'Several Times He had been Given Well-Intended Reminders': A case of Local Antagonism Land and Power in Berkofça Ottoman Governmentality Utilizing Ottoman Governance Staying Out: Challenging Ottoman Governmentality Conclusion

6 - 'CATTLE THIEVES': REFUGEE SETTLEMENT, OTTOMAN GOVERNMENTALITY AND BIOPOLITICS The Numbers Cattle as Liquidity 'Security, Territory, Population' in Vidin From Refugees to Cattle Thieves Conclusion

7 - CONCLUSION Survival of Lower-Tier Elites Crisis and Means of Production Connected Offices Contentious Dynamics Conniving Narratives Politics of Liberalism

Select Bibliography Archives Encyclopaedias and Dictionaries Official publications Secondary Sources

M. Safa Saracoglu is a Professor of History at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He is co-editor (with Kent F. Schull) of Law and Legality in the Ottoman Empire and Republic of Turkey (2016) and the founding editor of the Collaborative Research Initiative in Ottoman Sociolegal Studies (CRIOS), an open-access database dedicated to exploring the nineteenth-century Ottoman legal transformation (

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