This article investigates the transformation of three coeval monarchs—Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876–1909), Queen Victoria (r. 1837–1901), and King Leopold II (r. 1865–1909)—into private landed property owners in the late nineteenth century. In its comparisons, the article centers Sultan Abdülhamid II's transformation into a private landed property owner with the separation of his privy purse from the state treasury in the early 1880s, to show that despite the distinctive specificities of Ottoman law, institutions, and imperial finances, all three monarchs used private ownership of landed property as private individuals. This article not only joins the extended scholarly literature criticizing characterizations of an unproblematic capitalist “West” or “Europe” whose market society is underpinned by development of “private property” against a stagnant and undifferentiated “East” but also complicates the liberal distinction of “state” and “society” by focusing on the private property ownership of the pinnacle of “state actors,” the monarchs.

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