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Specters of Economic Growth: Trade, Banking, and National Development

Panel XI-24, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Sunday, November 5 at 8:30 am

Panel Description
  • In the old great civilizations, as well as in the early Islamic state, trade served economic and non-economic ends. Trade served as a mechanism for economic welfare and social communication. Trade agreements have their resonance in the past. For example, an agreement between king of Egypt and Babylonia held that any traveler passing through Egypt had to pay certain duties, whether voluntarily or otherwise. The Ottoman Empire adopted a semi-free trade policy by allowing imports into the empire but letting nothing out. This created a persistent balance of trade deficit. To break through the trading wall of Ottomans, reciprocal trade agreements were concluded between the Ottomans, Persians, and the Europeans. The most important of those was the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1838 between Britain and the Ottoman Empire. The convention stipulated prohibition of all domestic restrictions in the Ottoman Empire, imposition of 12% ad valorem tariff on export, and 5% ad valorem tariff on import. This treaty was followed by series of trade agreements between Britain, Iran, and Morocco. Egypt, a state of great importance in the larger Ottoman Empire, rendered itself as a special case in the Ottoman Empire’s trade policy. Since Egypt is state in the empire, any international trade agreement signed by the Ottomans is applied automatically everywhere in the empire. However, Muhammad Ali of Egypt adopted a mercantile policy. He wanted to build up an independent military “Egyptian Empire” from the Ottoman Empire. Thus, it was important for his self-interest to have a favorable balance of trade. In pursuing such a goal, he created monopolies, restricted imports to protect domestic industry, used administrative measures to delay the application of the Anglo-Ottoman Convention in his region, controlled land distribution and crops plantation, controlled prices of raw materials, restricted agricultural and industrial production to military–related activities such as cloth production for military personnel. Thus, Egypt, as an exception, witnessed a favorable balance of trade. The purpose of the paper is to examine history of trade policies in the Ottoman Empire and the rationale behind such policies. The paper also analyzes trade agreement signed at the time and the main provisions of those agreements. The paper addresses the situation in Egypt, a country of particular importance for Arab countries. Then, the paper highlights how the inheritance of the Ottoman Empire influenced trade policies adopted Arab countries in early 20th century. The paper concludes with a set of conclusions and recommendations.
  • In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the region that encompasses the Balkan peninsula, Eastern Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Anatolia, Greater Syria, and Egypt, came into contact with three historical processes that transformed its social structure: its integration into the capitalist world economy, the modernizing policies undertaken by an array of historical actors, and the nation becoming the main source of collective identification. Between the end of the Crimean War in 1856 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the unfolding of these processes was solidified. In other words, it looked as a world without capitalism, nationalism, modernizing politicians, and modernized states was no longer possible. This was also a time when a new class, the one that had mostly benefited from economic integration, became more active in instilling its values and ideas into the rest of society. This was the moment when bourgeois ideals became hegemonic in the region. Overall, in my project, I study how the Greek-speaking members of this class participated in this process and with a focus on how a group of bankers, financiers, and merchants in Istanbul, Athens and other major urban centers formed the core of this new social elite. In the chapter for this edited volume, I focus on two significant individuals for whom we have quite extensive records: Ανδρέας Συγγρός (Andreas Syngros or Syggros) and Κωνσταντίνος Βούρος (Konstantinos Vouros). With the help of their memoirs and correspondence with other prominent members of this class, I am in a position to place them in the context of the abovementioned large-scale processes. Their actions are approached along the four axes of analysis that structure my overall research project: how they managed to accumulate their fortunes; how they positioned themselves vis-à-vis the modernizing policies initiated by various politicians in Greece and the Ottoman Empire; what kind of public acts of philanthropy they undertook and in which countries; and, lastly, whether they decided to run for office and what were their reasons for running for office or denying the overtures of political parties in the Ottoman and Greek political contexts.
  • "The Bulgarians reaped what I sowed, I reaped what the Bulgarians sowed; the Greeks reaped what I sowed, I reaped what the Greeks sowed" is a local refrain that is still popular among the elderly to describe the volatile conditions of life for the inhabitants of Eastern Thrace, Turkey's northwestern borderlands, during the early 20th century. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and multi-sited archival research, this study examines the interwar transformation of Eastern Thrace through the prism of sovereignty and borderland security. The paper begins with a description of historical developments, socioeconomic conditions, and structural constraints that undermined state sovereignty and borderland security in Thrace after years of war that spanned the Balkan Wars, World War I, and the Turkish War of Independence. Chief among these structural constraints were population loss, agrarian crisis, and the demilitarized zones (DMZs) that the postwar Treaty of Lausanne had introduced, one along Turkey's border with Greece and Bulgaria and another around the Turkish Straits. The paper then documents how the Turkish political and military elites came into a particular geopolitical consciousness about Thrace in the 1930s, viewing the region as a vulnerable yet indispensable frontier due to its geographical, symbolic, and military significance. In their quest to re-border Thrace to extend state sovereignty and ensure borderland security, the elites combined the tools of international diplomacy with a regional policy that sought to repopulate, redevelop, and refortify Thrace. The paper coins the concept of marshaling development to situate these efforts to interrelated civilian and military ends, a daring enterprise that foresaw no less than the complete reordering of peoples, materials, infrastructures, resources, and affective dispositions across the borderland space with a view to the joint goals of defense and development. In conclusion, the paper discusses the continued socioeconomic, demographic, and infrastructural legacies of this interwar past in contemporary Thrace.
  • How did Ottoman subjects navigate shifting notions of citizenship and national belonging that also affected their economic assets in the wake of World War I? Based on a case study of sequestered Istanbul electricity company shares in a Belgian consortium, held by a company owned by a Greek citizen of the Ottoman Empire, I argue that the interwar practice of holding individual citizens and private companies financially accountable for their governments’ wartime actions reveals the economic consequences of nationalist ideologies based on the assumed homogeneity of populations. Much has been said about the violence of states on their minority populations during the transition from empires to nation-states, however, scholarship on the role of international financial institutions in enacting the homogenizing logics of the emerging nation-state system is still emerging, especially for the First World War and interwar periods in the Middle East. Through analyzing the sequestration process and the shareholder’s struggles to get his company’s shares back, I show how the logics of capital and nation-state were negotiated on a micro level between banks and companies in the Ottoman Empire and Europe.