Ottoman Telegraphic Protectionism in Comparative Perspective

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Üçer S. E.

4th Annual International Conference on Social Sciences, İstanbul, Turkey, 10 - 11 September 2020, pp.100-114

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • City: İstanbul
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.100-114
  • Yıldız Technical University Affiliated: Yes


I argue that concept “telegraphic protectionism” is a useful tool to analyze Ottoman communication policies in a comparative perspective. The formation of telegraphic protectionism was a consequence of Ottoman dependence on foreign post offices, which I call “postal dependence.” Telegraphic protectionism also shaped Ottoman approach towards telephone, a policy I call “telephone skepticism.” Explanation of postal dependence, telegraphic protectionism, and telephone skepticism demonstrates a general overview of late Ottoman communication policies. This specific form of late Ottoman communication policy had a great influence on fate of modern telecommunications in modern Turkey. Study of telegraphic protectionism is in close engagement with two research agendas. First agenda is study of modern state formation in semi-peripheral economies like Japan, China, Ethiopia and Ottoman Turkey. The formation of modern administration of post and telegraph networks was a crucial institutional threshold in forming of a modern state that is capable of governing its territories. The second research agenda in close engagement with the telegraphic protectionism is history of utilities policy in semi-peripheral countries, with its branches of transportation, communication, energy, water, and urban scale infrastructures. The history of public utilities in semi-peripheral countries has three main periods, namely the nineteenth century of concessions for foreign companies, twentieth century of nationalizations, and twenty-first century of privatizations. Ottoman and other semi-peripheral cases of communication policies demonstrate a deviation from nineteenth century of concessions for foreign companies, as Japanese government monopolized national postal network, Ottoman government monopolized telegraph network and Ethiopian government monopolized telephone network in the phase of their respective era of modern state formation. These governments protected their communication networks from penetration of foreign companies, despite the fact that they granted concessions for other networks of utilities. This presentation analyzes this specific formation of semi-peripheral communications policy by employing perspective of critical and comparative political economy.

Keywords: communication, Ottoman Empire, telegraph, protectionism, utilities policy, telecommunications.