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The economic system and resources


The economic life in Algeria during the late modern era was characterized by activism and dynamism due to the flourishing of economic sectors and its production diversification and richness. That was due to the political stability that the state had experienced during that period which positively affected the revenues of the Algerian treasury. Many foreign nomads described the Algerian markets as the full markets with the finest merchandise, and intense and active movement of commercial exchanges to whom ships come everywhere, so it was truly a destination for economic and trade activity in the Mediterranean. Its ports provided services like catering and maintenance for sailors and clients from everywhere. The economic part was a dynamic factor for its role in the orientation of external relations with Europe and the world, and the internal relations between the government and the inhabitants or groups of society.

One: The agricultural activity:

The agricultural activity dominated the Algerian economy, due to Algeria’s very fertile agricultural areas and lands, and the many varied products produced from it  like fruits and vegetables, in addition to the industrial agricultural products like cotton, tin and oil. William Charle stated in his memorandum that the Mitidja plains were the most beautiful and widest lands in the world  due to its climate and fertility, and it extended over an area of 330 square miles. 

These lands were divided according to the ownership pattern:

–Lands of the throne (Public property): It is a common- property that all the tribes’ members benefited from, according to their capacity.

– Property lands (Private property): It is a property occupied directly by  the owners who do not owe the state anything but the tithe and zakat obligations.

Beylik lands (the state’s property): lands that were directly owned by the state and the governors had the right of disposal. Most of these lands were attached to the Bylik’s record through confiscation, procurement or acquisition in case of vacancy. 

–Hubus lands (endowment property): Lands that were devoted for charitable works and religious institutions. It was immune and was not subject to the tax system. Awqaf  were widely spread near big cities in the late modern era .

-The dead lands: The lands that were unexploited or barren despite the possibility of ownership or benefit from it under the condition of reviving it.

The agricultural production:

1–Grain cultivation: 

During the late modern era, Wheat was on top of the agricultural crops in Algeria because it was an essential item in the livelihood of people. We can hardly find any region in the plains or mountains free from grain cultivation. Moreover, plains from Tlemcen west to Annaba west via the plains of Oran, Mascara, Chlef Meliana, Mitidja, Setif, Constantine were full of wheat and barley cultivation.

Sources revealed that Algerian wheat was excellent and was competing with the crops of the foreign countries in global markets. Charle stated: “This wheat is popular in the Italian markets, and traders prefer it over other kinds of wheat because of its quality to make multiple kinds of pasta.”

In addition to wheat and barley cultivation, there was also rice cultivation in Meliana on the banks of Ouedi Mina near Meliana and also Chlef, Mascara and Mostaganem where the productions reached sixt thousand SAA in the late eighteenth century in addition to cotton that was also cultivated in Mina plains, Chlef and Mostaganem.

2–Tree planting: 

Productive tree planting was spread all over the rural areas like Kabylie, Aures, Meliana, the Blida Atlas and the heights of Tlemcen. Among the species that were planted: figues, olives, apples, pairs, nuts, cherries, pomegranate, apricots, peaches, lemons and others. Also Kolea specialized in planting white and black mulberries that were used to feed silkworms. In the desert there were palm forests where different grains were cultivated.

3–Other cultivations: 

There were areas specialized in the cultivation of vegetables and legumes like: oignons, tomatoes, pepper, watermelon and others. Algerian agriculture had other kinds dedicated to industrial and commercial cultivation like cotton and tobacco that was planted in the suburbs of Annaba city and some Saharian oases like  Ouedi souf whose tobacco mixed with other natural grass had a good taste and smokers’ big demands for it until a quintal was sold for not less than 20 Budju. The tobacco of Ouled Chebli in Mitidja was also known for its excellent quality until it became of the finest tobacco kinds in the world. On the other side, Algerians were planting flax in many areas, and it was of an excellent quality, even the office was sending it as a present to Constantinople.

4– Animal husbandry:  

Pastoral activity was the core strength of all the inhabitants except for the urban category, where Algeria was providing big numbers of animals like sheeps, cows, horses, mules and donkeys. The initial statistics of the French army was estimated as the following: the number of animals in the early years of the revolution at: 6.850.205 sheeps, 1.031.783 cows, 3.384.90 goats, 213.069 male and female camels, 178.864 donkeys,131.035 horses, and 109.069 mules, and that was the total number of animals in the early years of the revolution.

The numbers of animals varied from one region to another. For example, sheeps and camels were more spread in the high plateau and the outskirts of the desert, as for cows breeding, it was more spread in the hilly areas. Moreover, most of the tribes were specialized in  horses, mules and goats breeding , for instance hill inhabitants were interested in horse breeding, like Hamdane Bin Othman Khodja said: “Those inhabitants love horses madly and they think only about doubling their number. They distinguish the different genres and carefully conserve them… however, the best species are horses. They are used in races and wars and are rarely sold” These animals provided big amounts of wool and fur which were used in making tents, weaving Burnus and capes then exporting them abroad.

 Two: Artisanal industry and organization:


Algeria had the same handicrafts as in Europe, and it was usually meeting the needs of people. The  industry was not developed with the current concept, however it was well made and it was based on the traditional professions and the handicrafts like textile industry, carpentry, smithing, dying, leather, potsherds, pottery tools, shoes, furniture, building  and tannery materials,  saddles, soap, jewelry, gemstones, glass, ship building material, porcelain, salt, guns, gunpowder, cannons and others. In addition to processing industries like melting metal in ovens, and food industries like olive pressing and the production of fruits juices and jam, also making perfume out of roses, and flour mills that function through air and water.

The reason behind the industry boom in Algeria during that period was the proficiency of the inhabitants and the migration of the Andalucians who were settled in the coastal cities and who played a positive role in moving the economic wheel.

All the significant economic activities were centered in the big cities Algiers, Oran, Tlemcen, Constantine, Annaba..etc. In Constantine the French found 33 leather dyeing factories,  176 shoe factories, 75 one for the saddles industry. In Tlemcen they found 500 factories

 of the textile industry, in addition to wood, leather and metal.

a.           Ship industry:

Most of the governors in Algeria have been interested in the ship industry since the early late modern era. The ship building house was receiving big amounts of wood and all the necessary material to build, equip and arm the ships. Further, all the shipyards were fully equipped to repair the ships of all types and sizes. Under the persuit of the maritime Jihad against the Christians, the arsenal had knwon a contunuous activity despite the difficult circumstances that Algeria had gone through, and the manufacture process did not stop even at its worst days.

b.   Weapon industry:

This dynamic industry was the basis of ‘Dar N’has’ whose establishment go back to an early age in the regency history, and it included making guns, molding cannons and preparing gunpowder.

c.   The industry of building materials:

The suburbs of Algiers included a significant number of ovens for making lime, plaster,clay and bricks, and the demands of these products were very high. 

d.   Other industries:

There were many industrial enterprises like water and air mills that were mainly spread in the regions near the cities. There were about 47 mills over the territory of Dar Sultan including 19 in Algiers and 7 in Blida and one in Cherchel. These mills were meeting the needs of the inhabitants, and there was also a factory of sugar refinery in Al-Hamma.

2–The artisanal organization:

Craftsmen in Algerian cities were organized in small special groups (trade-unions) in the urban cities that were known for their artisanal activity, for example the craftsmen of Tlemcen and Constantine cities were organized in special groups which can be categorized based on its function to:

–Productive specialized groups.

– Service specialized groups.

–Groups specialized in Trade and marketing. 

Even though it was difficult to differentiate between these groups, seventy productive groups had been sorted, including:

  • Carpenters: Their mission was to make wooden boxes, doors and windows.
  • Smiths: They were in charge of making plows, machetes,bridles, and hammer heads.
  • Coppersmiths: Those who were making copper utensils and engraving it.
  • Shepherds: Those who specialized in livestock.
  • Weavers: They were in charge of making wool and cotton clothes 
  • Potters: They were making pottery tools.

One of the characteristics of the artisanal system was work division, where one industry was branched into many organized groups. As an example, the leather industry was divided into ten groups as follows: Tanners,thinners, sharliya, baradia, babujiya, balanjiya, shamakjiya, halatjiya, tamacun and beaders.

The weapons industry was also branched into three groups: the Kandakjian , the Takjis (Makahla), and the Jakmakjian.

But despite all this, the industry all over Algeria did not develop and remained in its initial state due to the clash and hostility with Europe generally, then relying on sea spoils as a major source for the treasury.


Three: Trade and currency:


Like in all countries, trade in Algeria was internal and external. Internal trade took place in local and regional markets, and in small shops and annual exhibitions. As for the external trade, it took place in Europe through ports and with Africa through caravanes………

a.           Internal trade:  

During the last quarter of the sixteenth century, Algeria included about 2000 shops spread on about sixty small and big markets. In addition to the smaller local business concentrations located in the area of markets, some were known as  markets and some as shops, and their objective was to meet the needs of the locals without a lot of trouble. 

Moreover, there were other economic and trade enterprises like hotels in shapes of buildings with one or many yards, stores for merchandise and a number of rooms where traders and travelers were staying. The number of hotels reached 45 hotels inside and outside the city. We also witness the use of open public areas known commonly as “Rahba” for commercial purposes, most significantly: Rahba of plants, Rahba of barley, and rahba of animals.

Furthermore, the commercial relations between Algeria and the other regions of the regency was maintained through a network of primary and secondary  roads. The first one was known as the royal roads that connected between Algiers and the capitals of the Baylik Constantine, Medea and Mazouna and they ensured the commercial trade movement, at the same time it transferred the agents of administration and campaigns targeting tax collection.

As for the secondary roads, it connected between Algiers and the most important towns and villages of Dar Sultan. It was given particular importance by the governors on which they built many bridges  and taps which made transportation easy for people, and transporting merchandise from and to Algiers.

The roads that were used the most were: Blida road, Kolea road, roads of Bordj Sebaou, Dellys, Cherchel, and the road between Cherchel and Meliana, in addition to the mountain road connecting between Bordj El-Harrach and Medea.

Moreover, the trade activities were subject to strict supervision by the Baylik, where the tasks of organizing and supervising the markets have been assigned to the inquisitor or the secretary of Hisba who was in charge of the artisanal and commercial activity supervision through checking pints and scales and the quality of the merchandise, in addition to ensuring the stability of prices and punishing the offenders through whipping.

b.   External trade:

The trade extended beyond the borders and close commercial relations were established with the Maghreb and the two Arab Orients, Sudan and the European states. 

a.           Trade with the countries of the Arab Maghreb:

The Algerian trade was very active with the countries of the Maghreb in general, except that those exchanges were conducted between the oases of Algeria and the oases of Tunisia due to the geographical proximity, the prevalence of security, and the daily caravans movement that were going through the roads from Constantine to the oases of Oued Souf and Touggourt towards the Tunisian cities. The exported items consisted of dates, wool, opened and tanned leather, ostrich feathers, while they were bringing especially the embroidered fabric. This trade was estimated at about 500 thousand Franc monthly and the Alegrian-Tunisian trade reached 6 million Francs annually. 

As for the commercial exchange relationship with Maghreb Al-Aqsa were relatively weak, as most of it were conducted with Oued M’zab, El Abiodh Sidi Cheikh,Tlemcen and Oran from the Algerian side, and Fés, Méknes  and Ttetouan from the Moroccan side where the caravans carried woven silk, silver, junk, make-up and they brought leather material, horses and leather. 

b.   The external trade with Sudan:

Algeria had commercial relations with tribes who were in charge of the trade, and established many commercial stations across the desert. Merchandise was transferred from the north of the country to Metlili and then to Chaabna tribes to the markets of Meniaa then boats and the Khanfissa carried it to Tombouctou. It included European manufactures like oil and others.. And imported gold nuggets, ostrich feathers, addax leather, ivory, incense and others. Further, the Touat region was the commercial center of all the Maghreb states and where all comers from Tripoli, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco heading to Sudan, and there was a big road network that connected the trade centers on which caravanes go through. 

c.   Trade with Europe:

 The Algerian ports were exporting local industrial and agricultural products to Europe despite the continuous hostility between the Algerian regency and most of the European states. Among the Algerian  exports, we mention the wheat that comes in the first place for its reputation in the European markets because of its quality to make different kinds of pasta. 

Some sources mention that Bekri and Bouchenak sent France an amount of grains that was estimated at about 15 million Francs from 1793 to 1794. Considering that the quintal rate of wheat reached an estimated 20 to 30 Franc, we know that the Jews were annually exporting to France during this period an amount between 100 and 300 thousand quintals of wheat, in addition to the big amounts that were exported in the name of the African agency. 

This in addition to the candles that were also exported to France, as sources mention that Collo city was the biggest producer of this material, and can sell independently about 400 thousand  quintals to the French alone. Nevertheless, documents can prove that the French institutions kept importing from the Algerian east annually about 880 quital of candles, and that this trade did not cease until the blockade on the Algerian coasts was announced. Nor must we forget the wool that was the source of a big profit, where the ports of the Algerian east exported 28 thousand quintals to Marseille annually , and that was by the end of the eighteenth century. However, in the early nineteenth century, the French initiated animal husbandry, then Marseille was importing only half of the amount in 1817. The Algerian exports included vegetables, fruits, oil, ostrich feathers, honey, currants and  dates…etc.

However, it is important to note that despite this big diversity of the external trade products (grains, candles, wool, oil…) the major profit that was earned was mostly sent to the Jews as they were the commercial mediators, to the headstates and Turkish officers.


The local currency was minted at the money house that is commonly known as the mint located near the Bey’s castle and not far from the Ketchaoua mosque, before Dey Ali Khodja chose in 1817 AD the new seat in the Casbah annexed to the public treasury after the deposits were transferred to the Casbah bastion. 

The Algerian currency was characterized in this particular period with its round shape, even though the currencies of the Arab Maghreb countries had mostly a square shape especially in the era of Almohad state.

Furthermore, Baylik was closely watching the minting process and defining the amount of metal used. He was also watching the weight of different coins minted from gold, bronzium and copper, and there were other types of currency according to the material used and its amount, including the following:

Golden coins: Coin or Sultani, and half Sultani or half coin, and a quarter Sultani or a quarter coin.

Silver coins: The pogo Riyal or Badka Korda or  Algerian penny or small peny. A quarter pogo, an eighth of a pogo , two pogo , or the Algerian Duro coin. The Muzuna, two Muzunas,Badka Shik Riyal Dirham, half Badka Shik , Saima.

Copper coins: Karruba, small gram dirhams, two small grams, Aysar Shik.

Whatever it is, the economic activity which prevailed had made significant sources for the Algerian public treasury through imposing dues from taxes, tithes, fines, presents and levies.

3–Tax system:

 The financial instability resulting from the lack of naval prizes in the 18th century and especially in the first three decades of the 19th century, made dealing with the necessary requirements of the state difficult, therefore the government tried to find alternative sources and other revenues from trade, agriculture and others, and taxes were the most significant.

The Algerian governors found a tax system that consisted of combining legal and other taxes they created. The collection of those taxes was considered one of the major works of the Baylik, and fundamental tasks of the administration and the local workers, then taxes became the main source and the landmark of the treasury. 

1.   Types of taxes:

Legal taxes: consisted of the taxes of property lands, Zakat, tithe and al-kharadj.

The taxes of: Lazma Yabashi, or Binbashi, and written aid.

Created taxes: Dar Sultan’s guest….

Additional taxes: inaugural rights, the Farah tax……

Exceptional taxes: the resortissant’s horses or pony, sheeps, confiscations………

2–Tax Collecting and levying Methods:

It was based on military garrisons, or what was called seizures of tax collection in the cities. These seizures were an issue for the Janissaries that were supported each year by the soldiers, and on top of each seizure was an Agha and a delegate who was “Kaya” “Udiach” “Boulekbachi”  and “Wakil Kharadj”. As for the rural areas,  the taxation  system left  the Beys, leaders and officials  the freedom to fix the taxes and fees on their regions. 

3– The Baylik’s Dönüş and its resources:

Dönüş are the contributions given by the three Bayliks’ governors for the central treasury which was the outcome of taxes and the organized robbery campaigns. Those Dönüş were offered by the Bey’s Caliphate during spring and autumn and those contributions were known as the smallest  Dönüş. As for those that were offered by the Bey in person every three years were known as the biggest Dönüş which were more important as the Baylik’s outcome was offered in kind and in cash for the center of the authority. 

4– The revenues of the maritime activity:

The Algerian marine played a significant role in providing the state’s treasury with financial resources, and it affected the Algerian economy in one way or another during the Deys era that knew a kind of prosperity at the beginning due to the profit it made and the spoils it gained from the maritime battles, in addition to the redemption of the prisoners and the royalties. Moreover, Algeria had economic relations with different countries represented in the movement of the active commercial exchanges through its important ports and most significantly the port of Algiers city and the ports of the East. Even though the maritime activity and the economic movement contributed in the enrichment of the public treasury with considerable financial resources, they had experienced a kind of deterioration especially in the 18th century.

4–The spoils of the maritime activity:

During the era of the prosperity of the Algerian marine,  the revenues of the maritime Jihad or piracy like the Europeans used to call it, were the main resource of financing the Algerian treasury either through direct spoils like funds and merchandise or through royalties and prisoners especially, where the state was obtaining war equipment and a proportion of spoils and the ransom of prisoners.

The spoils of the maritime activity represented one of the revenues of the Algerian treasury which were not limited to the ships they were seizing, but also the items carried by the ships like food: wheat, salt, sugar, coffee and other supplies. In addition to other different items and merchandise like wood, sails, ropes, and the masts that contributed in supporting the ship building sites and in equipping. In addition to the items that the Algerian state was receiving as presents and royalties. This way, it was obtaining war equipment.

It also represented a source that contributed in the economy Cherif Al-Zahar stated in his memorandum the following: “In 1794, the Jihad boats went to the big sea (Atlantic ocean) and seized many boats loaded with sugar, wheat and others, until it was neither sold nor bought” . And in 1796, the Algerian sailors seized three greek boats loaded with charcoal. 

2.           The revenues of the external relations:

The foreign privileges and commercial exchanges: Like the French royal company, and others.

The foreign commercial privileges: Like the privileges the English had in the Algerian west.

The commercial and external exchanges: With Britain, France, Spain, and others.

Royalties and presents: It made most of the European states establish diplomatic relations with it and gain amity, as there were many states that were offering it, in exchange they allowed it to trade with Algeria or protection in the Mediterranean. Even if it was described as presents, it was mandatory, and if not paid by some councils, it might cause some issues with the regency or even declare a war. Many European states like France, England, Venus, Sweden, Denmark and the United States of America were paying those royalties and gifts.

1–Sardinia: was forced to pay 216.000 Francs due to the 1746 AD congress.

2–Venus: in 1747 it paid a royalty estimated at 2200 golden coins annually, and in 1763 AD, the imposed royalties raised 50 thousand Riyal.

3–France:  was paying before 1790 AD what was estimated at 37 thousand French livres, then pledged to pay 108.000 Francs. In 1816, it was obliged to pay 200.000 Francs.

4–The United States of America: due to the peace treaty it paid 642.500 as a ransom for a hundred live prisoners in 1795 AD, and gifts for the Algerian government. The United States of America committed to pay an annual tribute estimated at 12.000 Algerian piaster (equivalent of 21.600 Dollars) paid as maritime equipment in addition to the imposed ransom sums.

5–Austria: the royalties paid were estimated at 200.000 Francs before 1807 AD. In 1776 AD, it worked on sending a frigate that carried 4 bronze cannons and 48 pounds of bullets. Then in 1816 AD, it constantly paid 600 pound whenever the council was changed.

6–Spain: after signing the treaty in 1791 AD, it committed to paying 1800 Francs, and it contributed 48.000 Francs in 1807 AD. It also committed to send gifts from Madrid to Algeria, and each time a council was changed more than 5 millions piestre forte were spent, in addition to the free donations since the agreement was signed in 1772 AD.

7–Denmark: it desperately needed peace with Algeria, as all the Danish war and trade ships carried royalties in accordance with the treaties in 1749 AD, 1748 AD, 1747 which included the condition of sending war equipment like cannons, shells and gunpowder. In 18822 AD, it paid royalties estimated at 180.000 Francs every two years.

8–Portugal:  it was obliged to pay 20.000 Francs every two years from 1822 AD.

9–Kingdom of Naples: it paid a royalty estimated at 24.000 silver Duru in 1816 AD.

10–Norway: it paid a royalty estimated at 12.000 Francs every two years in 1822 AD.

11–Sweden: it was considered as the state that brought gifts the most and who tried most to satisfy Algeria and corporate with it, and this was stated in the agreement of 1615 AD. In 1746 AD, three Dutch ships loaded with different items and huge masts, pieces of wood to build ships, gunpowder, and pieces of textile for the  sails.

14–Tunisia: it was paying the Algerian state royalties for the dependency imposed on it, and its royalties consisted of oil, liquid soap, gifts especially a kind of hats called “Shashiya” offered for the dignitaries, and all these items were estimated at about 150.000 thousand pound.


In 1816 AD, Willlian Spencer estimated what each of France, England, Spain and Holland were paying at 58.000 coins (around 696.000 Dollars) , and Sweden and Denmark paid about 254.000 Dollars all in exchange for a total estimated at 950.000 Dollars.