Looking at state finance in the Ottoman Empire from a Dutch perspective shows remarkable differences between the two systems. This article suggests that these differences were related to the fact that, in contrast to those in the Ottoman Empire, fiscal systems in western Europe, and especially in the Netherlands, developed within a context of economy-driven rather than state-driven trajectories of urbanization. This gave rise to separate systems of urban public finance, which enhanced possibilities for funding a debt serviced by indirect urban taxes, the root of later state debts. In Ottoman cities, systems of urban public finance managed by urban governments did not develop, thus precluding a similar development. © London School of Economics and Political Science 2009.