Abstract

New technologies have not always been greeted with great enthusiasm. Although the Ottomans were quick to adopt advancements in military technology, they waited for almost three hundred years to allow the first book to be printed in Arabic script. We explain differential reaction to technology through a political economy approach centered on the legitimizing relationship between the rulers and their agents (e.g., military or religious authorities). The Ottomans readily accepted new military technologies such as gunpowder and firearms because they increased the net revenue available to the ruler and reduced the expected value of revolting against him. But they objected to the printing press because it would have decreased the ruler's net revenue by undermining the legitimacy provided by religious authorities, and it would have raised the probability and expected value of a revolution. The printing press was allowed in the eighteenth century after alternative sources of legitimacy emerged.

Share

COinS