Although tax farming—the delegation of tax collection to private individuals for profit—was common in most European countries prior to the nineteenth century, this privatized form essentially disappeared from Europe with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. In the Ottoman Empire of the nineteenth century, however, tax farming remained an important instrument for extracting revenue from customs transactions, domestic and international trade, and agricultural production. The Ottoman case is unique not only for retaining this mechanism within a larger revenue collection system, even beyond the end of the century, but also for deploying it to collect the tithe, a direct tax on agricultural production. This fiscal system, which made perfect sense within the Ottoman context, was hardly archaic and primitive when considered within a broader framework.

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