Sale of offices was a phenomenon which was common to many countries in Europe, Asia, America and Africa, but which was not prevalent everywhere in the same forms or to an equal degree. Sometimes offices were sold for only a few years, in other cases for lifetime, or even as inheritable property. Offices could be sold by the governments, as in despotic countries, by ministers or other prominent people, as in the English departments, or by the officials themselves, as in the English army. Offices were also sold both by the government and the officials, as was the case in France. In most countries sale of offices was a more or less official institution, but there was a considerable difference between countries, such as France, England and Spain, in which the buyer of an office acquired a piece of property almost as secure as real estate, and states, such as China and the Ottoman Empire, in which every official could be deprived of his office by a caprice of the prince. The legal aspect of sale of offices was most pronounced in France where offices were regarded as immovable property.