Social class in the Ottoman Empire

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There is considerable controversy regarding social status in the Ottoman Empire. Social scientists have developed class models on the socio-economic stratification of Ottoman society which feature more or less congruent theories. We see the Ottoman Empire being described as a bureaucratic state, holding different regions within a single administrative and fiscal system.[1]

The Ottoman Empire lasted for over six hundred years (1299–1923) and encompassed what is modern-day Turkey, the Balkans and the Fertile Crescent. Thus the Ottoman Empire would be home to an extremely diverse population ranging from the Muslim majority to the minority population, specifically Christians and Jews who were referred to as the People of the Book.


The integration of minorities such as Jews and Christians into every level of society; i.e. military, government, business and so on allowed a sense of unity to a certain extent and allowed the most qualified individuals to contribute their part for the Empire. Another example of the integration of minorities into Ottoman society was the creation of an elite military force known as the Janissaries. The slaves were well paid and received a far higher standard of living than even many Muslim members of society. Many Muslims tried to enroll their own sons.

Ultimately the successful assimilation of the Empire's minorities into Ottoman society helped the Empire to flourish with the Muslims in firm control.


  1. ^ (Hourani 1991, p. 207)


  • Hourani, Albert Habib (1991). A History of the Arab Peoples. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
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