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Sultan Abdülhamid II and Palestine: Private lands and imperial policy

Sultan Abdülhamid II and Palestine: Private lands and imperial policy

Sultan Abdülhamid II and Palestine: Private lands and imperial

Sultan Abdülhamid II and Palestine: Private lands and imperial policy Roy S. Fischel Ruth Kark Abstract This paper surveys the private lands owned by of Sultan Abdülhamid II in Palestine and analyzes their spatial distribution and impact, in the context of regional imperial policy. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire faced serious external and internal problems. Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876-1909) used various traditional and modern methods in order to increase the internal cohesion of the empire and strengthen it vis-à-vis external threats. One unique measure taken by the sultan was the purchase of large tracts of land. He became one of the largest landowners in the empire. In Palestine alone, the sultan purchased around 3% of the total area and initiated measures to increase these lands’ productivity for his Privy Purse. In addition to gaining economic profit, Abdülhamid II employed his private lands to solve problems which challenged the sovereignty of the empire. These included attempts to settle the Bedouins, the establishment of new towns in order to subjugate nomads in regions where they threatened rural settlements, settling Muslim refugees from the Caucasus and the Balkans, and protecting strategically sensitive lands located on the frontiers, by purchasing them and thus keeping them out of the hands of others. When it is remembered, further, that such harbour structures as exist in Syria, and the equipment of principal cities like Aleppo, Damascus, Beirut and Jerusalem with broad ways, modern buildings, electric Roy S. Fischel, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, The University of Chicago, Chicago, fischel@uchicago.edu. Ruth Kark, Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, mskark@mscc.huji.ac.il. Authors’ note: This study was supported by the “Herzl Colleagues” foundation of the Cherrick Center for the History of Zionism, Jewish Settlement and the State of Israel, with the participation of the Israel National Fund and the World Zionist Organization. The authors also wish to thank Dr. Eyal Ginio of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for his most useful comments and help. New Perspectives on Turkey, no. 39 (2008): 129-166. 129 NEW PERSPECTIVES ON TURKEY

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