Capitulations of the Ottoman Empire

Capitulations of the Ottoman Empire were contracts between the Ottoman Empire and other powers in Europe, particularly France. Turkish capitulations, or Ahidnâmes were generally bilateral acts whereby definite arrangements were entered into by each contracting party towards the other, not mere concessions.[1]

16th century copy of the 1569 Capitulations between Charles IX and Selim II.
Draft of the 1536 Treaty or Capitulations negotiated between French ambassador Jean de La Forêt and Ibrahim Pasha, a few days before his assassination, expanding to the whole Ottoman Empire the privileges received in Egypt from the Mamluks before 1518.
Capitulation reopening trade between Venice and the Ottoman Empire signed 2 October 1540, following the Battle of Preveza.
1 piaster overprint on 25-centime Type Sage, used at the French Post Office, Beirut in December 1885

The Turkish Capitulations were grants made by successive Sultans to Christian nations, conferring rights and privileges in favour of their subjects resident or trading in the Ottoman dominions, following the policy towards European states of the Byzantine Empire.

According to these capitulations traders entering the Ottoman Empire were exempt from local prosecution, local taxation, local conscription, and the searching of their domicile.

The capitulations were initially made during the Ottoman Empire's military dominance, to entice and encourage commercial exchange with Western merchants. However, after military dominance shifted to Europe, significant economic and political advantages were granted to the European powers by the Ottoman Empire.[2]


In the first instance capitulations were granted separately to each Christian state, beginning with the Genoese in 1453, which entered into peaceful relations with the Ottoman Empire. Afterwards new capitulations were obtained which summed up in one document earlier concessions, and added to them in general terms whatever had been conceded to one or more other states; a stipulation which became a most favored nation article.

Around 1535 a capitulation was made by Suleiman the Magnificent regarding France.

France signed its first treaty of Capitulations with the Mamluk Sultanate in Cairo in 1500, during the rule of Louis XII.[3][4] After the Turks conquered Egypt in the Ottoman–Mamluk War (1516–1517), the Ottomans upheld the capitulations to the French and applied them to the entire empire.

The Ottoman-French Treaty of 1740 marked the apogee of French influence in the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth century. In the following years the French had an unchallenged position in Levant trade and in transportation between Ottoman ports. Near contemporary Ottoman capitulations to European powers such as Britain and Holland (1737), the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1740), Denmark (1756), and Prussia (1761) were to offset and balance the capitulations granted to France in 1740.[5]


Capitulations signified that which was arranged under distinct headings; the Ottoman Turkish phrase was ahid nameh, whereas a "treaty" was mouahed. The latter did, and the former did not, signify a reciprocal engagement.[citation needed]

According to Capitulations, and treaties confirmatory of them, made between the Porte and other states, foreigners resident in Turkey were subject to the laws of their respective countries.

Thus, although the Turkish capitulations were not in themselves treaties, yet by subsequent confirmation they acquired the force of commercial durable instead of personal nature; the conversion of permissive into perfect rights; questions as to contraband and neutral trade stated in definite terms.


In 1914, the Committee of Union and Progress abolished the capitulations in the Ottoman Empire and introduced economic policies that would benefit the Ottoman economy.

As far as Turkey is concerned, the capitulations were abolished by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), specifically by Article 28:

Each of the High Contracting Parties hereby accepts, in so far as it is concerned, the complete abolition of the Capitulations in Turkey in every respect.[6]

Capitulations in Egypt ended in 1949 as stipulated in the Montreux Convention Regarding the Abolition of the Capitulations in Egypt in 1937.[7]

List of capitulationsEdit

Capitulatory treaties were signed with the following countries:[8][9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ As regards technical distinctions, an agreement, an exchange of notes, or a convention properly applies to one specific subject; whereas a treaty usually comprises several matters, whether commercial or political.
  2. ^ Cleveland, William; Bunton, Martin (2009). A History of the Modern Middle East (4 ed.). Westview Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-8133-4374-7.
  3. ^ Three years in Constantinople by Charles White p.139
  4. ^ Three years in Constantinople by Charles White p.147
  5. ^ Robert Olson, "The Ottoman-French Treaty of 1740" Turkish Studies Association Bulletin (1991) 15#2 pp. 347-355 online
  6. ^ In addition to Turkey, the British Empire, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Romania and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia were parties to the Treaty.
  7. ^ Convention regarding the Abolition of the Capitulations in Egypt, Protocol, and Declaration by the Royal Egyptian Government (Montreux, 8 May 1936) Art 1.
  8. ^ Lucius Ellsworth Thayer, "The Capitulations of the Ottoman Empire and the Question of their Abrogation as it Affects the United States", The American Journal of International Law, 17, 2 (1923): 207–33.
  9. ^ Philip Marshall Brown, Foreigners in Turkey: Their Juridical Status (Princeton University Press, 1914), p. 41.


  • Ahmad, F. "Ottoman perceptions of the capitulations 1800-1914," Journal of Islamic Studies, 11,1 (2000), 1-20.
  • Boogert, Maurits H. van den (2005). The capitulations and the Ottoman legal system: qadis, consuls, and beraths in the 18th century. Leiden: Brill. xvi, 323p.
  • Hoyle, Mark S. W. (1991). Mixed courts of Egypt. London: Graham & Trotman. xxvii, 206p.
  • Maurits H. van den Boogert; Kate Fleet, eds. (2003). The Ottoman capitulations: text and context. Rome: Istituto per l'Oriente C.A. Nallino. pp. vii, [575]-727, 14p. of plates : ill., facsims.
  • Longva, Anh Nga. "From the Dhimma to the Capitulations: Memory and Experience of Protection in Lebanon." in Religious Minorities in the Middle East: Domination, Self-Empowerment, Accommodation (2012): 47-70. online
  • Olson, Robert. "The Ottoman-French Treaty of 1740" Turkish Studies Association Bulletin (1991) 15#2 pp. 347-355 online
  • Vlami, Despina. Trading with the Ottomans: The Levant Company in the Middle East (Bloomsbury, 2014).