Skip to content Skip to navigation

Order of Liabilities: Debt and Credit in Ali Pasha's Regime

The Order of Liabilities is a sub-project of MapOE, carried out by Ali Yaycıoğlu and Fatma Öncel, with the technical assistance of Erik Steiner. The project is based on a number of fiscal inventories kept during the rule and after the death of Ali Pasha of Ioannina. The project offers various visualizations, designed by Fatma Öncel and Erik Steiner, illustrating financial relations within the Ali Pasha Order, extended from Epirus to Thessaly in central Greece, from Avlonya (Vlorë) and Delvinë to Ağrıboz (Negroponte or Evia), roughly between 1818 and 1822.



When we say financial relations, we particularly mean various forms of obligations as a result of debt and credit relations and financial arrangements among Ali Pasha, his associates, Muslim and Christian local notables, including ecclesiastical figures, financiers and various rural, urban and pastoral communities.

In Ottoman law, obligations, namely all kinds of liabilities, were generically called Żimmet (in Arabic Ḍimmah) They include debts (deyn), non-performance of a contract or surety and guarantee (kefālet/kafāla). See Żaman/Ḍamān.

Taxation: As the governor, for instance, Ali Pasha was authorized by the Ottoman state to collect various standard taxes and dues, such as tithe or poll tax, as local communities were obliged to pay Ali Pasha for a period of time. In many cases, they were indebted to Ali Pasha because they were not able to pay all their taxes. This triggers a payment arrangement between Ali Pasha and the communities as the communities promised to pay their taxes and dues in later taxes seasons with interest. In this case, the communities were registered as debtors in fiscal inventories.

Çiftlik management: However, Ali Pasha's claims were by no means limited to imperial taxes. Ali Pasha was also involved in various financial relations and partnerships with the local individuals and communities. He extended credits to them and maintained protection. Especially, as a result of Ali Pasha's formal and informal claims over the rural estates, known as chiftlik (Turkish çiftlik), various rural communities were often indebted to Ali Pasha, since he was also acting as patron of production activities as a creditor extending loans to the peasant communities to pay their dues to other authorities and/or to obtain necessary inputs (such as providing seeds, maintaining logistics and commissioning infrastructure) for their production activities and/or public needs.

Primary and secondary obligations: In roughly half of these debt relations, we observe that communities were not directly indebted to Ali Pasha. Often, there were financial and managerial brokers, who were mainly but not necessarily from Christian and Muslim notable individuals with titles and offices. These brokers were indebted to Ali Pasha sometimes as tax-farmers since Ali Pasha often contracted the units under his jurisdiction. In other cases, these brokers were Ali Pasha's close associates and they acted as Ali Pasha's representatives. In other cases, the brokers might also be indebted to Ali Pasha as community representative. In these three cases, communities as primary liability holders, were obligated to pay their dues, taxes or rents to these brokers, while brokers acted as secondary liability holders, who were obliged to pay to Ali Pasha in accordance with their arrangements or contracts with Ali Pasha. In other words, what we observe is a chain of liabilities from primary liability holders to the secondary ones, from them to Ali Pasha. In many ways, we can accept these secondary liability holders as the key political and fiscal actors in the Ali Pasha order, who not only managed different units as managers and patron creditors but also acted as local leaders in the Ali Pasha's order.

Network of obligations: We have to add Ali Pasha's own obligations to this chain of liabilities.  As governor and holder of various short- or long-term deals and contracts with the central administration, Ali Pasha had obligations and debts to other authorities, often in the central elites of the imperial establishment, other provincial governors, to the central treasuries and the mint, as well as the imperial waqfs. Between Ali Pasha and these outside authorities and actors, there were constant financial deals, negotiations and arrangements about how Ali Pasha kept his offices, contracts and jurisdiction and how he performed his obligations, paid his debts and services to the empire. In this order, sarrafs, namely financiers performing money transfer from Epirus to Istanbul, extending guarantor-ships for Ali Pasha when he obtained an office or contract and managing Ali Pasha's debts and credits at the local level played major role.

                                     Network of Obligations

1822 - Post-Mortem Settlements between the Liability-Holders and the Ottoman State

In the Order of Liabilities project, we will examine the liabilities in the Ali Pasha order, as they were documented in number of inventories prepared after the execution of Ali Pasha by the Ottoman authorities following a siege of Ioannina led by Ottoman governor Hurşit Pasha in January 1822. After the execution, the Ottoman fiscal officers initiated a massive settlement with communities, households and individuals across Epirus, Southern Albania and central Greece, to reveal the assets, debts and credits of Ali Pasha. Consequently, the Ottoman officers examined Ali Pasha's documents and account books in his archive and prepared a number of inventories listing liabilities and liability holders in these regions under his full or partial control. In our project, we examine these inventories and discern this post-mortem settlement between the liability holders and the Ottoman State and debt collection process. The debt collection process often involved deals, negotiations and confrontations between the local communities indebted to Ali Pasha and the Ottoman administration.

Visualizing the liabilities, and debts settlements and collections process is feasible with the diversity of tools available (e.g. Tableau, Palladio, Gephi, R, etc.). For example, graphs, timelines, maps, and network diagrams can display how debts were restructured, how Ali Pasha's wealth was redistributed, and how his movable property and real estate gained new owners in auctions, and how collective negotiations transformed into a conflict between local communities and the Ottoman center.

HAT 403/21137. (16 September 1822/29 Z 1237)

As the first step to examine the liabilities and debt settlements after the death of Ali pasha, we have examined a liability inventory (zimem defteri) housed in the Başbakanlık Ottoman Archives in Istanbul. The inventory was prepared eight months after Ali Pasha’s death, in September 1822.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The title of the defter reads as follows: “It is the [account] book that lists the amounts of receivables of the late Tepedelenli Ali Pasha. This is the translation of the books and documents in Greek that had been sent to Istanbul and the register kept by the community of Avlonya. Ali Pasha’s former clerk Kosti, who is now in Istanbul for translating these documents, has testified that the liability holders hold title deeds (temessük), account books (defter), and even letters (pusula) authorized by Ali Pasha and Muhtar Pasha.” The inventory has thirty-two pages, with eleven chapters listing 419 entries of debts (liabilities) to Ali Pasha and his son Muhtar. Each chapter represents a district (liva) under Ali Pasha's full or partial jurisdiction, namely Avlonya (Vlorë), Yanya (Ioannina), Tırhala (Thessaly), Selanik (Thessaloniki), İlbasan (Elbasan), Ohri (Ohrid), İnebahtı (Lepanto), Agriboz (Negroponte), Delvine (Delvinë), Paşa (Paşa district refers to Manastır (Bitola) district, which was the seat of the governor of Rumelia province during the time) - with an additional chapter for those debts occurred between Ali Pasha and foreigners (European) individuals.

Below we see a map illustrating the regional distribution of liabilities in terms of number of records as listed in HAT 403/21137.
Liability District

1. Distribution of the Liability-holders

HAT 403/21137 provides us with a snapshot of the forms of debts to Ali Pasha. The graphics below illustrates the distribution of districts, sources and amounts of debts to be paid to Ali Pasha just before he died. It also illustrates the types of liabilities holders and the diversity of the liability holders. Some of these holders were individuals, some others were communities, who were indebted to Ali pasha collectively. The no intermediary groups (dark blue) refer collective indebtedness without any intermediary. The communities (light green) refer to collective secondary liability holders. Other liability-holders were indebted to Ali Pasha, either as brokers, creditors and representatives of different communities, as secondary liability holders or as primary liability holders, who were indebted to Ali Pasha as a result of their own matters. We will return to this division.

Amount of liability and type of liability holders graphic

2. Source of Liabilities

The graphics below illustrate types of sources of liabilities. The liabilities occurred as a result of agricultural activity is the leading category. Majority of these liabilities are related to debts of the çiftlik farmers to Ali Pasha. Agriculture is followed by an unspecified category. Liabilities from the activities in livestock constitute the third category. Liabilities occurred as a result of imperial taxes constitute the fourth category. These debts occurred when communities could not pay or had not yet paid their regularly imperial taxes to Ali Pasha just before he died.

Liability categories of Ali Pasha order 1818-1822

A more detailed graphic of the source of liabilities is below. The first column refers to unspecified liabilities. Below, we see the regional distribution of sources of liabilities. One can observe that Avlonya was the main center for liabilities, both agricultural and pastoral liabilities.

Source of liability




Relationships Between Liability TypesNetwork diagram of the liability types. Connecting lines show that they appear together. The nodes are sized based on total amount of liability. Important themes: Tax-farm (iltizam), farm (çiftlik), winter pasture (kışlak) and provisioning (zahire) are four major liability types in terms of the total amount of liability. Network among them is fundamental to reveal Ali Pasha’s order. Outcomes: (1) Revenue sources of farms are leased out to Ali Pasha and his entourage, and collected by Ali Pasha’s functionaries. (2) Winter pastures are a vital part of farm revenues. (3) Winter pastures are also important regarding the transhumant communities and the relation they establish with Ali Pasha. (4) Provisioning of the army and the capital city is a major function of Ali Pasha. It is a main pillar of his power. He relies on his farms which are based on wheat cultivation to fulfill this function. (5) Farm economy is based on a very delicate balance of provisioning and winter pasture. Provisioning requires an extensive amount of wheat cultivation. This is a major duty of Ali Pasha’s farms. Winter pasture revenue is the cash rent collected from transhumant Vlachs who rented winter pastures of Ali Pasha’s farms. Other sources confirm that winter pasture revenue is the most important cash revenue source of these farms. (6) Apart from their relation to farm, “provisioning” and “winter pasture” have a significant number of relations with other lability sources. (7) Farm is the liability source with the highest number of network connections (14 connections). This shows that farm is key to understand the order of debt. (8) What is “goods” (eşya) and how is it related to tax-farm, provisioning and winter pasture? (9) “Eşya” appears only in one case, yet amount of which is 800.000 guruş (the case with highest value). This case has multiple liability sources: zahire, eşya, kışlak, iltizam.

Manastır’da sakin Yanyalı avram mekiri yahudinin tahsiline memur olduğu Yanya etmekçiliğine tevzi olunan hınta ve eşya bahasından zimmeti, sene 1233,Baha-i hınta 55696 guruş,Beş ec… tevzi olunan eşya: 163350,5 guruş,Kermez(?) bahasından kazan ve debbağ esnafına verilen: 30600 guruş,= 249646,5 guruş,Tahvilen 7863 guruş,= 241783,5 guruş,Tahvil etmek üzere yedine verilen mümzi defter mucebince Karlıili ve Lamri ve Kakaş kışlakları bedel-i iltizamından sene 234: 556418 guruş,= 798201,5 guruş

3. Regional Distribution of liability holders

What was the regional distribution of different types of primary and secondary liability holders? On the map below, we can find the answer to this question. The map shows that majority of the liability holders were from the district of Avalonia. Apparently, majority of these people, who were indebted to Ali Pasha in Avalonia were individuals, rather than communities. In other words, in Avlonya, it was not the communities in a collective form, but individuals, were indebted to Ali Pasha. And majority of these people were Muslim. Some of these people were primary some secondary liability holders. We will return to this division. We observe a stark contrast to Avlonya in Delvine, Paşa and Ağriboz districts, where we see non-intermediary constitute a high proportion. In other words. in the Paşa and Ağriboz districts, majority of the liabilities were primary liabilities of the communities, without the mediation of a secondary liability holders. In the Yanya district, we see an even distribution between Muslim and non-Muslim (Christian) liability holders, whereas in Tırhala half of the liability holders were among non-Muslim notables (Kocabaşıs).

Amount of liability and type of liability holders

4. Regional distribution of the primary liability holders

In all of the region, the communities constitute the majority of the primary liability holders. It is also striking that many ordinary individuals were personally indebted to Ali Pasha. Only a minor portion of the primary liability holders was constituted by the notable individuals with titles. At this stage, we cannot provide a detailed analysis of the sources of these personal debts.

Primary liability holders

In the graphic below, we see another visualization of the regional distribution of the type pf liability holder in the Ali Pasha Order in terms of the value of the liability. It is staking that Avlonya was the main district housing secondary liability holders, majority of whom were common individuals without titles. In other words, Avlonya was the key district provided capital to Ali Pasha's order by ordinary and notable individuals. These men acted as creditors for the communities and this as fiscal brokers between them and Ali Pasha.

Liability holders

5. Financial Intermingling in the Ali Pasha Order

This project illustrates that liability (zimmet) is the key institution behind the Ali Pasha Order, like in other eighteenth and early nineteenth century regional order in the Ottoman Empire. His regime was built heavily on obligations and debts between communities, intermediaries and Ali Pasha. The intermediaries, namely the secondary liability holders, were the essential actors of this regime. While they acted as creditors of the local communities, linking the local communities to Ali Pasha's administration, they also got their shares from this intermediary role. These shares manifested as interests, commissions and political power. Mapping Ottoman Project will develop various other case studies to illustrate the details of this financial and political configuration between the communities, different intermediary actors and Ali Pasha.

We would like to conclude this analysis with a visualization illustrating the financial integration of the Ali Pasha Order. Below, we see a map showing the links between the primary and the secondary liability holders. Here we see that there is a concentration of secondary liability holders in Avlonya, Delvine and Ioannina. These secondary liability holders however, had financial connections with different localities across the Ali Pasha Order. For instance, these secondary liability holders in Avlonya collected revenues more or less everywhere in the Ali Pasha Order, while those settled in Delvine and Ioannina were heavily involved in revenue collection from Inebahtı.

Amount of liabilities

This illustration shows not only a concentration of financial elite (secondary liability holders) in the northern section of Ali Pasha's Order, but also a financial intermingling in this regional order from south to north, from west to east.