The Ottoman Empire trade was once one of the most famous and rapidly growing trade empires of the 15th century. This empire started with several poor tribes who joined hands based on a common religion and purpose: the spreading of their religion.

The empire that started from scrapes reached the highest levels of riches all because of trade and land monopoly. Here we follow the important Ottoman empire trade routes and their workings.

What Did the Ottoman Empire Trade

The Ottoman Empire was formed at the end of the 13th century when several small tribes in the northwest of Anatolia, in Sogut. The founder was Osman I, a fierce and brave soldier of the Kai tribe in Sogut. The small and secluded tribes of Sogut came together on the call of Osman I. One of the most important purposes of their gathering was their religion.

These tribes were Muslim. Osman I was a devout Muslim and believed in spreading the light of his religion Islam through the world. He gathered the tribes for one purpose and laid the foundation of the Ottoman empire.

The empire started with small and somewhat poor tribes. These tribes had wide lands, good manpower but lacked planning and skills for agriculture. Osman made sure that his people would prosper and their united tribes would grow. For this reason, the people started cultivating and trading with the nearby colonies and tribes.

From humble beginnings, the empire started its trade journey. The Ottoman Empire reached its peak at the end of the 15th century. It is when it started to take full advantage of its land and sea.


The Ottoman empire has vast lands and plains. The Turks used these lands for agricultural purposes. Some of the crops grown by the people were wheat, cotton, and rice. In addition to that, the people also grew figs, olives, and sugarcanes in large amounts.

The Ottoman empire that we now know of was a major agrarian empire. In addition to the crops, the common people were big on grazing and poultry farming. They used to sell meat and milk from their cows, camels, goats, and sheep. As they had wide lands, the animals had extraordinary space to graze, which produced milk of exceptional quality and were healthy.

In 1453, when the empire captured Constantinople, they took charge of the Silk Road. The Silk Road was the biggest and busiest route that the European countries took to trade with Asia. Now that the Ottomans controlled it, Europeans and Asians had no choice but to trade with the middleman, the Ottoman empire.

The Ottomans rose in status because of their optimum use of their land and crops. Now the poor tribes of the Turks were stronger than ever as they produced the riches for themselves. After this came urbanization and industrialization.


The people who did well for themselves started erecting palaces, castles, and government buildings. The leaders wanted their empire to be no less than the empires of the world. So governance was introduced. Even though the elected governance came much later to the region, the kingship, or as the Ottomans called it, Sultanat was established.

Sultanat was a Sultan, a King governing over his people. This brought a sense of structure to the people. They now had a ruling body with the possibility of punishments and pardons for doing bad or good.

Different treaties and laws were signed. Certain taxes and customs were induced on citizens. Some taxes and customs were also based on the religious identity of the buyer and the seller.

The Sultanat highly influenced trade. The Ottoman empire began trading with nearby countries and kingdoms because of a known body in power. The simple crops which were once traded raw were now stepped up to industrialization.


The Ottoman Empire industrialization started shoemaking, tanning, weaving, and iron-working. They also started selling pickled fruits and vegetables. Bread was among the famous Turkish goods. Another renowned addition to the resume of Ottoman trading goods was clothes.

Before, the Ottomans used to sell and trade cotton. Cotton in its raw form was very valuable in the early times. They understood the importance of raw materials and started working with them. Soon they started weaving cotton and silk into expensive and ornate clothes.

The Ottoman empire economy was very famously known for its mines. The land is home to vast gold, silver, marble, and coal deposits. At one time, the Ottoman empire was the biggest exporter of gold in Europe. The mine-workers surely turned the fate of their kingdom around.


The Ottoman Empire grew and took many countries, kingdoms, and borders under its rule. Some of the most famous territories that came under its rule were Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Greece, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Moldova, Venice, and many more.

This huge expansion of the Ottoman empire gave them access to the most important seas and ports.

The Ottoman traders took the Red sea, Indian ocean, Mediterranean sea, and the Caspian sea as their trade routes. There is also evidence of the usage of the River Nile by the Ottomans.

Clear access to the sea only meant their trade increased with the nearby territories. While they exported handmade goods, hard labor goods, and unique Turkish goods, they also imported a fair amount of products.

The Imports of the Ottoman Empire

The Sultanat approved of the liberal trade policy. This policy stated that the empire was open to imports from foreign countries and territories. This policy was a game-changer. This gave access to international traders to come and sell their goods. Also, the Ottoman traders now had a bigger market to monopolize.

The Ottoman imports included everything that they could not produce themselves, which means that the ratio of imports to exports was greater. The imports included gun powder, glass, medicines, artillery, and weaponry, and mostly mechanical parts and machineries.

The imports mainly were from European territories. They also imported luxury items for the Sultanat.

One of many causes for the failure of an institute is when its imports are greater than its exports. The Ottoman empire slowly started importing a great list of products from different countries. It greatly affected the economy. The people became less inclined to work, and urban migration increased.

The Decline of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire took part in World War I and sided with Germany, Hungary, and Austria. The empire was tackling many internal and external problems even before World War started.

They faced a terrible defeat in 1918. Finally, in 1922 the Ottoman empire fell from its glory when the Sultan was eliminated.

This was a great letdown to the people, as it greatly affected their lives and livelihood. The trade was decreased from international to only local. The people had lost their loved ones and access to main seaports and land routes.

It was a great hit to the economy of Ottoman empire. The Ottoman empire was broken down, and its territories were divided among Britain, France, Greece, and Russia.

The Independent Republic of Turkey

Turkey was declared a republic on 29th October 1923, when an army officer, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, founded the independent Republic of Turkey.

From 1923 to 1938, Ataturk preceded Turkey as its President. He was ideologically a nationalist and a secularist. His ideology of a separate state of Turkey is known as Kemalism or the Six Arrows.

Under the rule of Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, Turkey became a modernized and secularized state. This was a great push to the economy of Turkey.

Foreign countries started investing in Turkey’s domestic projects. The opportunities for trade, education, and social welfare peaked.

Not only did Turkey regain its status in terms of exports, but it also flourished and was seen as an emerging force in the world. The empire that started from humble beginnings is now a developing country with so much to offer.

The Ottoman Legacy

The Ottoman Empire ruled for almost 600 years. It is one of the most important and well-known empires of the 15th century. The Ottomans surely gave Turkey the basis of culture, socialism, and trade. Whatever Turkey is today, they cannot disregard the sacrifices and teachings of their ancestral Ottoman empire.

The Ottoman Empire started under Osman I. He gathered the local tribes and laid the foundations of the Ottoman Empire. The tribes were poor, but they built their empire based on trade and agriculture. The Ottomans had access to vast lands and later important sea routes.


The Ottomans took full advantage of their geographical position and built a stronghold on the world economy. The resources of the Ottoman empire were cotton, silk, spices, gold, silver, marble, figs, sugarcanes, rice, and other agrarian-related items.

They largely imported machinery, medicines, and weaponry. The Ottoman Empire, now known as Turkey, saw many ups and downs but surely is one of the world’s greatest empires.


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  • Andrew Mango Atatürk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey, Overlook Press, 2002, ISBN 978-1-58567-334-6,
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