[RARE MANUSCRIPTS / THE AGRARIAN REFORM OF OTTOMAN BOSNIA 1840-1877] Bilingual huge early manuscript historical document in Serbo-Croatian (Cyrillic) and Ottoman Turkish (Arabic) documenting the detailed tax questions and between a Serbian land tenant...

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Manuscript, Travnik City, Bosnia and Herzegovina Sanjak of the Ottoman Empire, AH 1276 = [1858-59].

COMPLETE TITLE: [RARE MANUSCRIPTS / THE AGRARIAN REFORM OF OTTOMAN BOSNIA 1840-1877] Bilingual huge early manuscript historical document in Serbo-Croatian (Cyrillic) and Ottoman Turkish (Arabic) documenting the detailed tax questions and between a Serbian müstâcir (a land tenant) in farmland in Travnik city of Bosnia and Herzegovina and by the landlord Muslim named Mehmed Beyzâde Sems Bey, prepared in fî 15 Tesrîn 1276 [1858-59], same year with the Safer Ordinance, by which a serious Agrarian Reform was aimed in Bosnia by the Ottoman government.

Black ink on a folio paper. 55x39 cm. Bilingual in Serbian (Cyrillic script) and Ottoman Turkish (Arabic script). 1 p., with some annotated notes on the margins. 50 lines in Serbian text, and 20 lines in Ottoman text. The centre of the paper is divided in half by a vertical line for usual bilingual texts. An early form of a Star and Crescent at the top of the line was a symbol of the Imperial Ottoman. The right side of the paper includes the Ottoman Turkish and the left side includes Serbian text. Sealed and signed. Skillful restorations on creases and extremities, minor discolouration on vertical and horizontal folded traces. Overall, a good paper copy.

A historically significant manuscript document in bilingual Serbian and Old Turkish documenting the conditions shortly after the last official Ottoman Agrarian Reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 19th century. The document includes complaints of a Serbian local land tenant bound to a Muslim landlord (Eshâb-i Alâka) in Travnik, and also working and living on this farm with his family, although he is bound to another contract of farms in Akhisar owned by a Christian landlord named Jorg Dragolo Beg. This remarkable document prepared by an Ottoman judge in Bosnia and having the seals of tenant with the Muslim landlord, describes that the taxes, which are stated as a percentage and in great detail according to the Ottoman tax system in the text, were illegally increased by the landowner.


Eshâb-i Alâka [i.e., the Landowners, or Landlords] was a class largely composed of Muslim Turks in the region and people holding high government positions. In the first half of the 19th century, these landlords continued some of the old practices that were against the new law after modernization (1839), and they continued to employ the "reaya" (a member of the tax-paying lower class of Ottoman society) most days of the week. The "reaya", who was constantly employed on the farms of landlords, wanted to file a lawsuit against injustice by appealing to the Ottoman “kadi” [i.e., judge] of the region. To find a radical solution to the dispute, it was decided to invite people who knew the local conditions and hold a detailed negotiation in Istanbul in 1858-59, preparing a new regulation, titled “Safer Ordinance, the so-called Talimat”. Thus, six people were invited to Istanbul: two from the landowners of each sanjak, two from the tenant farmers, and two from the neutral farmers on their own land. The arrival, return, and food expenses of these people, who were recorded to have been elected by the consensus of the people, were covered by the Ottoman government.

When reminded of the Regulations of the Bosnian Farms and Land Law, it was stated that the common people were not aware of them in these meetings. When a new order was to be declared in Bosnia, this was announced to the public by beating drums, but such a thing was not done for this new regulation. Thus, the regulation, which had been prepared with the approval of everyone by calling representatives of all parties to Istanbul upon the complaint of Christian farmers and written in both Turkish and Bosnian to be printed and announced to every sanjak, was not announced to the public.

However, according to the famous historian Cevdet Pasha (see Tezâkîr), the texts of the regulation in question were later found in a cellar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to him, some Muslim and Christian profiteers prevented the announcement of this regulation stating the legal status of landowners because it was against their interests.

Thus, three important regulations were prepared in Bosnia in 1840, 1846, and 1859, and although some significant improvements were made in favour of farmers as a general trend, this system of oppression and exploitation could not be fully resolved by the central Turkish government.

As a matter of fact, despite a poor harvest the year before, in 1875, Christian farmers in many villages in Herzegovina, where tax collectors were trying to collect taxes, revolted against Muslim landowners, and this rebellion spread throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. European states intervened and ended the rebellion by largely eliminating Ottoman authority. Three years later, the Austro-Hungarians took over Bosnia's administration in 1878.

Overall, an important historical document related to the Agrarian problems and Reform in 19th-century Ottoman Bosnia. For the full Ottoman Turkish transcriptions, please contact us.