Breaking News

Flour And Bred Production And Legislation In The Ottoman Empire


Agricultural Engineer

“During the Ottoman Period, ahi orders applied for disciplining and controlling, production, marketing and penalization of wheat, flour, and almost all foods and supplies. Since bread was accepted as sacred with the increase in the population in the country, and treading on materials that spill around during production was considered a sin, the workers had to be chosen among Muslim citizens. In the 15th century, the producer joined “Lonca” (Guild) craftsmen’s association, which also cover ahi order in order to solve the problem.  

osmanlida ekmek

Before starting my article, I must emphasize the fact that, since I was born in 1938, I collected a majority of production techniques related to the subject and public rules, from various resources. I will not give a list of references, since I observed conflicts in historical data, which address the same subject, and some of the descriptions, and I made certain arrangements in accordance with my opinions.

Historians, who investigate the life history of the world, write that first humans emerged in 100.000 BC, in North Africa’s coasts, and they had black skins. These humans, whose number increased up to a few thousand, lived in natural caves and coves in small groups. On the other hand, they met their food needs and other supplies by gathering all kinds of edible plants in nature and hunting animals. As the population of communities increased and natural resources fell short, some emigrated from South Africa towards the north and started inhabiting in the wide soils of Asia. When living conditions became harsh as a result of population increase in the regions they inhabited, they continued immigrating to other areas of the world in clusters. During the migrations, which started in 70.000 BC and continued for 20-40 thousand years, human biology (DNA) changed due to the melting of glaciers, radiation as a result of heavy rains – according to some scholars, vitamin D, which formed with solar rays – and harsh living conditions due to regional climatic characteristics. In this process, white and yellow skinned races emerged, the skin of humans, who did not emigrate, remained black. On the other hand, human races were categorized anatomically and according to their physical qualities such as skull, bone structure and tall stature. As explained above, while humans lived in separate communities and racial groups with different languages, religious beliefs and ethnic structures, their population increased rapidly, and they started creating establishing civilizations. This condition, which started in 40.000 BC, continued until 500 B.C, and in this process, artificial races emerged with the intercourse between individuals.

There are several speculations about the birth of Turkish race, but by personal guess is that Turkish race emerged after the Biblical Flood, which happened in 3000 B.C, unless proved otherwise. Many people and other living creatures died in the big flood that took place in the Mesopotamia as verified by religious books such as the Koran and Torah, myths and archaeological excavations. After the water settled down, Prophet Noah and his three sons scattered to different regions of the world with their wives and bred there. It is assumed that, among these sons, Japheth is the father of Turkish tribes, and Turkish race bred from his son. During these developments, when it was seen that making tools and equipment necessary for the survival of societies, and use of basic raw materials only for domestic purposes, was not possible, different occupational groups and jobs started to emerge. And regulations were developed for disciplining masters with a cooperative working system and keeping up with innovations. The subject of this article is to provide information about regulations which were promulgated for milling and bread making production plants and business owners.

Suleiman Shah, the leader of Kayı Tribe, one of the branches of Ghuzz Turks, decided to return to Turkistan geography, which he had left before, on his way there, he drowned in the Euphrates, the river near “Caber Tower,” and he was buried on this coast right after his death. His tomb is located in the area, which is within the boundaries of Syria, and with the status of Turkish land today, and characterised as a typical Turkish grave. After Suleiman Shah’s death, a small unit consisting of 400 tents, under the leadership of Ertuğrul, provided courageous help to Seljuq Empire’s “Pitched Battle of Yassı Çemen.” In exchange for this, they were granted the city of Söğüt, as winter quarters, and Domaniç and Gavur mountains, as summer pasture, in the status of “dirlik” by Aladdin Keykubat, the Sultan, and they started inhabiting in these regions. Ahi community (Guild) provided a considerable support to Sultan Ertuğrul, for the establishment and development of the state, and he married Malhun Sultan, daughter of Edibali, one of the leaders of the community. Their son, Osman, was also a member of the Ahi community. After this, Kayı Tribe maintained their existence as Edge Principality of the Seljuq State. After Sultan Ertuğrul died in 1281 at the age of 90, he was replaced by his elder son Osman (1299-1326). In 1285, he subjugated the Kulacahisar Castle, which is in the vicinity of today’s İnegol, from Byzantine İnegol feudal landlord, with a night raid. In 1287, he subjugated the Karacahisar castle. Learning about this, Seljukian Ruler Mesut, the Second, sent a flag and an edict as a sign of Principality together with precious gifts, to congratulate Osman in 1289. In this way, “The Ottoman Principality” (Osmanlı Beyliği) was established under the leadership of Osman Bey, and the conquered lands were deemed to belong to the Beylik from then on. Forces under the command of Osman Bey continued battles, and they first conquered Bilecik, and then proclaimed the establishment of “Ottoman State” by organizing a khutbah ceremony during Salat Al Eid. Osman Bey continued conquests in order to expand the borders of his country, and conquered Mudanya in 1321. He died during Bursa Siege in 1326. Orhan Gazi (1326-1632), who took his place, seized the city a short time after, and made Bursa the capital of the country. With efforts of etatisation the Beylik, he gathered the first council (divan), and assigned Vizier title. He appointed judge (kadı) and commander-in-chief (subaşı). After Bursa, Edirne (1365-1454), and İstanbul (1453-1922) were conquered as well, and they were respectively made capital, and the Ottoman State became an empire.

After the unity of Turks, who adopted “Islam religion”, was disrupted due to Mongol Invasion and rebellions, opinion leaders such as Mevlana Rumi, Yunus Emre and Ahi Evran tried to solve the problem. Ahi Evran (1171-1261), who went to Kayseri in 1205, established the “Ahi Community” being inspired from the “Futuwwa Community” which was prominent with its Islamic Mysticism influences, founded and prevailed during the Abbasid era. To become a member of the community, one must have been recommended by an Ahi member, during childhood. The trainings were provided for titles such as 1st level Valiant (Beginner), Assistant, Apprentice; 2nd Level Foreman, Master, Ahi; 3rd Level, Khalifa, Sheik, Sheik-ul Mesayıh (Sheik of the sheiks). During the day, while each level is trained by the upper level with various activities, and in the evenings, trainees would attend conversation meetings, serve to their seniors, and develop themselves intellectually and socially. The decision of the upper level was necessary for the lower level member’s to be promoted to upper positions. Heretics, people with bad reputations in their community, those who would create a bad impression for the community, adulterers, alcoholics, murderers, thieves, commissioners, tax officers and profiteers could not be members of this community. There were 740 rules of Ahi Community, and there were seven banned actions. Fundamental philosophy of all the formations mentioned above, was to keep the profit of tradesmen, who meet all kinds of needs of consumer mass, at a reasonable and legitimate (halal) level

Ahi orders applied for disciplining, controlling, production, marketing and penalization of bread, the subject of our article, and its raw materials wheat and flour. Since “Nan-ı Aziz” (Sacred Bread) was accepted with the increase in the population in the country, and treading on materials that spill around during production was considered a sin, the workers had to be chosen among non-Muslim citizens. In the 15th century, the producer joined “Lonca” (Guild) craftsman’s association, which also cover ahi order rules in order to solve the problem.

In the Ottoman State, industrial activities were almost non-existent except for weapon, shipyard and military productions, and therefore needs for consumer goods were met by small-scale crafts man or through import. On the other hand, semi-finished materials and raw materials were main export items. Small handicraft shops were based on Lonca’s (Guilds) and after 1727, gedik method. People working in the same craft branch were under strict control on issues that govern the business life of guilds, and rules related to the measurements and standards of products. Violation of rules was strictly prohibited, and the number of workplaces and production facilities of each business segment was restricted. Mastership was a prerequisite for starting a business, and it was impossible to have a master title without working as an assistant or apprentice, and being considered competent by the master. Gedik was a place of craftsmanship and production, and a new master could not open a gedik by his own, and the position had to be vacant with the death of the current gedik or other reasons. After 1859, gedik method was amended with some restrictions, and it was annulled completely in 1913.

In Ottoman State, the first legislation on controlling, production, marketing and marketing, penalizing and disciplining of wheat, bread, our article’s subject, and almost all foods and supplies, was “Kanunname-i İhtisab-ı Bursa” (Bursa Municipality Law) which was prepared in 1502 during the tenure of Sultan Bayezid The Second. The law included measures for the transportation and storage of wheat, which was the most important substance for the nutrition of society, and avoiding commercial frauds on it. Necessary penal clauses related to all aspects of flour, the main ingredient of bread, including sufficient storage in order to prevent a shortage of bread, and proper weight of the bread, and all of the provisions were implemented uncompromisingly.

In Ottoman State, when there were no municipalities or medical institutions, applying sharia and judicial law, on the other hand, and carrying out the orders of the state, was under the authority of kadı. The kadı was the administrator of settlement units of certain sizes, small towns and villages, the authority of municipal works and representative of the central administration. His assistant in municipal works, was called “Müktesip” and all artisans were also audited by “İhtisap Ağası” (tax headman). These headmen collected the taxes called ihtisap, checks the prices of goods sold in bazaars and markets, ensures that scales and shops are kept in reliable and clean conditions, and everyone acted in accordance with moral roles, and punished those who failed to comply with these rules. On the other hand, the same aspects were also audited by craftsmen’s own supervisors, namely sheik, beadsman, sergeant and chamberlains. Chamberlains were semi-official civil servants, who were assigned by kadı to act as an intermediator between the state and craftsmen, and also assumed their roles if a sheik, beadsman positions were not available. This position was canceled in 1910.

After the conquest of İstanbul by Mehmet the Conqueror, on 29 August 1453, Istanbul was made capital, and Mehmet the Conqueror appointed Hızır Mehmet Çelebi as the inspector of food production and auditor of craftsmen’s activities. The most significant aspects, which Hızır Bey attached particular importance, were ensuring that bread producers paid due diligence to the cleanliness of their bread and facility, and avoiding frauds related to the weight of the bread. On the other hand, the bread, which was the basic food of the public in İstanbul, was frequently inspected by state authorities, especially by the sultan and the grand vizier. For instance, Mehmet the Conquer frequently inspected the tradesmen in Unkapanı officially or incognito, to check whether they are acting in accordance with the rules of the state. Abdülhamid the first, who was ruling the state between 1774 and 1789, usually went to bakeries in disguise, and checked the weight, colour and ingredients of bread. When the bread was determined to be underweight, if the deviation is less than 5 per cent, the fault would be tolerated, if the difference exceeds this percentage, the owner of the bakery was warned, in case this violation is repeated, a fine was applied. If the violation occurred repetitively, the owner of the bakery would be taken to the bazaar and markets with a yoke on his neck, and exhibited to the public as a bad example. The worst punishment was to hang the bakery owner or its employee in front of his bakery. For instance, in 1772, a bakery worker was executed in front of his work place, and a bread seller was executed in 1774 in Vefa square. On the other hand, some historical writings reveal that bakery owners, who did not cook the bread sufficiently, sell them with defects or less than the standard weight, were bastinadoed or nailed to the wall by their ears. As it is seen in the descriptions, in a period, when the microbes were not discovered yet, only physical audits could be carried out, especially on the bread. Personal audits for tradesmen generally focused on fraud production for profit, cleanliness and moral rules.

During the period from Orhan Gazi until Bayezıt The Second, while all the health services of the state were carried out by palace physicians, Sultan Bayezıt The Second established the post of physician in chief level so that these works could be handled under the authority of physician in chief. In 1537, the authorities of the physician in chief were restricted with the establishment of Health Department of Ministry of Military, and this title was abrogated with the establishment of Ministry of Medicine in 1850. Pasteur (1822-1895) discovered invisible seeds, that is microbes, in the 19th century, although Akşemseddin gave hints of them in the 15th century. During the first epidemic cholera, which broke out in İstanbul in 1831, there was neither a public institution to manage health issues of the public, nor a municipal organization. A branch of “Meclis-i Tıbbiye” (Chamber of Medicine), which was established under the body of “Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Şahane” (Military Medical School), took care of public health issues. All aspects related to food, were among the duties of these institutions, and the organization of these works was under the responsibility of chief physicians. Later, this chamber was re-organized under the name of “Nezareti Umur-ı Tıbbiye-i Mülkiye ve Sıhhiye-i Umumiye” (Ministry of Public Health) and later took the name of “Sıhhiye Müdüriyet-i Umumiye” (General Directorate of Health). In 1850, its name became “Umur-u Sıhhiye ve Muavenet-i İçtimaite Vezareti” (Ministry of Public Health and Social Cooperation). In the Ottoman Empire, the first legal municipality was Istanbul Municipality, which was established on August 16, 1864. The mayor (şehremini) assigned by the Sultan was responsible for the municipality, which was governed by a city council consisting of 12 members, who are also appointed by the Sultan. Kadi was the judge, civilian authority and mayor. Local administration structures did not exist in the pre-Tanzimat era, general services were provided by foundations, guilds, local organizations and kadıs, these organizations, neither had administrative and financial independence nor legal status.

Check Also

Can the World feed 11 billion people?

Thomas Malthus, a priest in a small town of England in 1798, was in deep …