This chapter explains the primary focus and the theoretical devices for the book, introduces Vidin region and provides a brief outline for the chapters. Provincial councils were key offices of Ottoman governance from 1840s onward. In the broader context of Ottoman liberal-capitalist social formation during the long 19th century (1789-1922), local councils provided a venue for local agents pursue competing political and economic strategies. Conventional historiography on 19th century Ottoman state-society relations puts a lot of emphasis on an imperial regulation from 1864 in explaining provincial councils as an extension of imperial centralization policies. This study shifts the focus of research on provincial documents produced by such councils to reveal how these offices and practices of Ottoman governance served as a platform for the political and economic negotiations of provincial agents pursuing their interests. The documents produced by the provincial councils in Vidin County in Ottoman-administered Bulgaria provide a rich source to explore the dynamics of 19th century Ottoman governance in its full richness focusing on property rights, security matters, market order and population management.
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