Energy and the Environment in the Late Ottoman Empire: An Inquiry into Heating in Anatolia

Tok A.

1st Biannual Conference on Mediterranean Studies, Renewable Energy and the Environment: Social, Political and Economic Dimensions, İzmir, Turkey, 9 - 10 October 2020, pp.13

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: İzmir
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.13
  • Yıldız Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Energy and the Environment in the Late Ottoman Empire: An Inquiry into Heating in Anatolia

Based on archival documents and foreign travel accounts, this study presents a historical analysis to the energy-environment relationship in Anatolia with specific reference to space heating. Fueled primarily by renewable resources, heating was an important component of the Ottoman energy economy. It is argued in this paper that increasing commercialization of fuelwood, population growth and latency to adopt coal-based heating technologies led to a growing pressure on renewable energy sources throughout the nineteenth century. In an agricultural society, environment was the key factor that determined the heating practices. In regions with forest cover, firewood and charcoal were the main sources of thermal energy. Heat was provided by dried dung in inner parts where vegetation was poor. Despite the increasing use of coal in the empire in the nineteenth century, its consumption in heating remained limited even in the most developed parts of the country due to higher prices. The Ottomans maintained the ancient heating practices until the demise of the empire. Major means of heating were hearths in the rural houses and braziers in the urban dwellings. In the spaces that lacked proper insulation, both methods suffered from inefficiency which had negative reflections on living standards and environment. Stove and central heating as latecomers were not widely used due to their costs and architectural inconvenience. Despite the state tried to develop protectionist forestry policies, the lavish use of fuelwood from commons by peasants did not cease. Settlement of immigrants in large numbers further increased the fuel consumption in Anatolian provinces. The Ottoman heating practices and problems related to environment continued with little change during the early Republican years.

Keywords: Heating; Ottoman Empire; Firewood; Charcoal; Forests