chapter  3
25 Pages

The Ottoman City Council and the beginning of the modernisation of urban space in the Balkans


During the nineteenth century, urban space in the Balkans underwent a drastic change. The urban population constantly expanded, with Christians especially increasing in number. Owing to energetic activity on the part of non-Muslim merchants and artisans, the urban economy as a whole flourished in many parts of the peninsula; and the very scenery of the cities was changed substantially as well. Alongside centuries-old mosques and hamams (public baths), the city centre was now furnished with European-style buildings, such as city halls, community houses, clock towers, schools and the elegant residences of wealthy merchants. Traditional Balkan historiography has posited that the basic driving force

underlying these changes was the emergence of a national bourgeoisie.1 Such a view regards the changes in the urban space as a prelude to national independence. The same period, however, was the time when reform-minded Ottoman bureaucrats attempted to introduce a European-style rule to wide-ranging fields of administration, with particular concern for the renovation of the urban space. In this chapter, I try to ascertain the effects of Ottoman municipal reform on the modernisation of Balkan urban space.2