The Economic History Review

Was there a ‘consumer revolution’ in the Ottoman Empire?

Home > The Economic History Review > Was there a ‘consumer revolution’ in the Ottoman Empire?
Authors: Pınar Ceylan
Published online: October 20, 2023DOI: 10.1111/ehr.13295

Log in to access the full article.

Whether the ‘democratization’ of consumption during the early modern period was specifically a characteristic of the European economic shift or observable in other parts of the world remains a central question in understanding the early roots of consumerism, as well as explaining pre-industrial growth and divergence. However, the scarcity of quantitative evidence from the non-Western world limits our ability to make comparisons and grasp the nature of changes that occurred in the material environment. Based on a sample of 380 probate inventories from the Ottoman town of Üsküdar, this paper examines the change in possession of domestic goods from 1700 to 1850. It reveals that, from the 1760s onwards, ordinary Ottomans in the town, who were neither wealthier nor better positioned in the social hierarchy compared with their ancestors in 1700, owned a greater quantity and variety of domestic goods. As a result, they enjoyed richer and more elaborate domestic interiors. The findings strongly suggest that democratization of consumer goods, a hallmark of the early modern consumer revolutions in Europe, was experienced in the Ottoman town of Üsküdar during the second half of the eighteenth century.