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This paper sets out to reconsider the issue of the Egyptian fallāhs' conditions, by collecting the occurrences of the word fallāh in the administrative writings of the 12th-15th centuries and then rereading them in relation to two documents dating from the beginning of the Ottoman era: the Kānūnnāme-i Mısır (1525) and a partial copy of the 933/1527-1528 cadaster. Al-Maqrīzī asserted that the fallāhs' status had appeared at the beginning of the Ayyubid era, probably with the term itself of fallāh when the iqtā' was instituted in the rural areas; this study confirms his assertion. During the period under study, the word fallāh, used in its administrative meaning, signified the land-tax payer. Each year, the overall village tax was apportioned out between a few individuals who had been chosen according to their ability of relatively large tracts of arable lands. This paper examines three questions: were fallāhūn actually serfs who were bound to the glebe? Did they farm lands on behalf of state? Or did they exploit their own lands and enjoy the status of landowners? By studying the charges and duties weighing on the fallāhūn group, one is led to picture a more complex view of Egyptian rural society as well as of the policies implemented by the state in to ensure its fiscal income through the maintenance of effective land cultivation.

Cet article se propose de reprendre la question de la condition des fellahs, en relevant les occurrences du terme fallāh dans la littérature administrative des 12e-15e siècles, et en les relisant à la lumière de deux documents du début de l'époque ottomane: le Kānūnnāme-i Mısır de 1525 et une copie partielle du cadastre de 933/1527-1528. L'étude confirme l'assertion d'al-Maqrīzī selon laquelle la condition du fallāh, et sans doute le terme même, apparurent au début de l'époque ayyoubide, avec l'instauration de l'iqtā' dans les campagnes. Dans son sens administratif, durant la période considérée le fallāh était le contribuable acquittant l'impôt foncier. La charge fiscale globale du village était répartie chaque année entre un petit nombre de personnes, choisies en fonction de leur capacité à mettre en valeur et à exploiter les terres arables, sur des superficies assez importantes. L'article examine trois questions: les fallāhūn étaient-ils des serfs attachés à la glèbe? cultivaient-ils des terres pour le compte de l'État? ou exploitaient-ils leurs propres terres, dont ils auraient été propriétaires? L'étude des charges et obligations pesant sur le groupe des fallāhūn conduit à un tableau plus complexe de la société rurale, comme des politiques mises en oeuvre par l'État pour assurer ses rentrées fiscales à travers le maintien de la mise en culture des terres.

Affiliations: 1: Université de Provence (Aix-Marseille I)


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