Consequences of the Ottoman Land Law: Agrarian and Privatization Processes in Palestine, 1858–1918

  • Ruth KarkEmail author
Part of the Perspectives on Geographical Marginality book series (PGEO)


The Land Law and other processes in nineteenth century Palestine brought about the beginning of land survey and land settlement , land registration and systematic mapping , as well as the creation of new estates, new settlements, and new cities. After the publication of the Ottoman Land Law in 1858, a trend developed towards concentration of land in the hands of families of urban effendis (absentee landlords), who lived in the cities of Lebanon , Syria, Egypt and Palestine. The main focus of this paper is to critically examine the objectives of the Ottoman Land Code , the Tabu Law of 1858 and the 1867 Law that permitted foreign citizens to acquire urban and rural land, and it will assess their significance, impact, and success or failure in Palestine. It will touch upon issues such as the abolition of the musha’a , land surveys , systematic mapping, land registration and land settlement. The private investors in real estate in Palestine included Arabs (both Muslim and Christian) mainly from Syria and Lebanon, Egypt, North Africa and Turkey, the Ottoman Sultan, European Christian Churches, and bodies and individual Christians and Jews from Europe and America . Urban entrepreneurs (absentee landlords) engaged in a process of concentration of huge tracts of land in their hands. The investors built large estate building complexes in the form of small khans, with functions such as residence, farm and storage rooms. In some they kept agricultural tenants and developed modern agricultural infrastructure (wells, reservoirs, canals, fences, roads and plans for a railway). Ownership by effendis facilitated the purchase of part of this land by Jewish immigrants from Europe for settlement in nucleated villages. Thus over 52 estate buildings became the initial core of the new Jewish agricultural settlement in Palestine. At least 15 became the initial core of German Christian settlements or religious activities. The trend to privatization of state land increased and influenced the implementation of improved legislation to ensure systematic mapped surveying, registration, and assessment of real estate in Palestine at the beginning of the 20th century. This study highlights the importance of manorial structures for the historical development of Middle Eastern settlement patterns and land use . This study is a first step in a comparative study of these formative settlement patterns, and by comparison with processes in Europe and elsewhere, will subsequently attempt to create a generalizable model that will promote our understanding of these historical processes and the resulting creation of new landscapes.


Ottoman land laws Palestine Land privatization Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II New rural and urban settlements 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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