Abstract

Ruling for more than six centuries over lands that spanned three continents, the Ottomans developed a system of law enforcement that initially relied on fines collected by local agents. In the sixteenth century, much of the revenue from these fines went to the local officials in charge of identifying suspects and punishing criminals. To prevent corruption, the personnel responsible for adjudicating criminals were not also responsible for punishing them; public officials were periodically rotated between regions; and law-enforcement agents' compensation derived from criminal fines as well as local taxes. After the seventeenth century, high levels of inflation, imperial decentralization in the provinces, and the institution of long-term tax farming altered the government's relationship with local law-enforcement agents, thereby reducing the effectiveness of mechanisms that previously helped to control corruption. These developments impelled the Ottomans to decrease their reliance on fines for punishment in later periods.

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