The Ottoman Empire


The Ottoman Empire

In this article, will discuss the origins and history of the Ottoman Empire, beginning from the early years of the empire, to the fall of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. Within this article, I shall discuss the formation of the empire, its bureaucratic structure, the Ottoman Empire tax collection system, its domestic policies, its international relations with other foreign powers, as well as  the declining transformation of the Ottoman Empire (Elsewhere, we discuss the end of the Ottoman Empire through the Treaty of Sevres). Throughout the article, and at the end of the piece, I will also include reading recommendations for further information on the subject.

The Origins of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire began as a number of smaller principalities in Anatolia (roughly modern day Turkey), following the invasion of the Mongol Empire. These various principalities were Muslim, and the individuals within them Muslim fighters against the Christian Byzantium empire. Many of these fighters were gazis, or individuals fighting in the name of Islam. But while their actions clearly had religious overtones, this was not the only reason for their fighting; many of them were also looking for territorial gain throughout the region. According to the historical records available, the origins of the Ottoman Empire date back to sometime in the early 1300s ace, to an individual named Osman, who led one of the principalities (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013: 35). Following successful battles against the Byzantine Empire, Osman continued to expand his influence. And in 1326, his son Orhon captured Bursa, which then was established as the new capital city for the small, but growing Ottoman Empire. In fact, in the next century, the Ottoman Empire expanded greatly, conquering lands throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. Below is a series of maps illustrating the Ottoman Empire and its territorial growth in those early centuries, and afterwards.

Ottoman Empire

Ottoman Empire–map of the empire from 1481 to 1683, Andre Koehne, CC 3.0

In the mid-1300s, “the Ottomans had expanded to the shores of the Sea of Marmara; across the water [were] the lands of Christian Europe, which always had been beyond the reach of Islamic rulers. They were not beyond the reach of the Ottomans. Over the course of the next two centuries, all of southeastern Europe came under direct Ottoman control” (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013: 36).

It became evident very quickly to many people (and European powers alike) that the Ottoman Empire was rising in political power, not only in the Modern Middle East, but in Northern Africa, and in parts of Europe as well. Scholars argue that there are a few military victories that show just how powerful the Ottoman Empire was, and was becoming. According to Cleveland and Bunton (2013), “[t]he first of them was the conquest of Constantinople, an achievements that had eluded Muslim commanders throughout the centuries. On May 29, 1453, following a long siege, the forces of Sultan Mehmet II (also known as the Conquerer) entered the Byzantine capital and brought an end to Constantinople’s role as the symbolic center of eastern Christendom. Henceforth known as Istanbul, the city became the seat of the Ottoman government and was restored to its former splendor by Mehmet II’s program of reconstruction and repopulation” (36).

(Constantinople) Istanbul was critical for the Ottoman Empire, not only as a symbol of power (at the expense of former European control), but also strategically for the empire. Istanbul served as a key city for economic trade to both Asia and Europe, as well as serving an important tactical military advantage: “The occupation of Istanbul provided the Ottomans with an unparalleled strategic base from which to dominate the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean” (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013: 36).  The Ottoman leaders, recognizing the importance of building a strong navy in order to protect and better utilize their new city possession, concentrated heavily on building one. Scholars point out that “Mehmet the Conqueror constructed shipyards in Istanbul; gathered skilled carpenters, merchants, and sailors from the coastal regions under his rule; and forged an Ottoman navy that eventually drove Venice from the eastern Mediterranean and established the Ottomans as the supreme maritime power from the Adriatic to the Black Sea” (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013: 36).

But while the overtaking of Constantinople was a very important victory for the success of the Ottoman Empire, it is important to note that Istanbul was far from the only strategic, symbolic, and economic territorial victory for the Ottoman Empire. For example, in the early 1500s, the Ottoman Empire, under Sultan Selim I, gained military victories in Syria, parts of southern Anatolia, as well as in Egypt. This culminated with control over Cairo in 1517 (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013: 37). They also took over Muslim Holy Cities Mecca and Medina at this time (Fanack, 2014).

In addition, to capturing many parts of the Muslim Middle East, the Ottoman Empire, under then leader Sultan Suleyman (or also known as Suleyman the Magnificent) (1520-1566), continued Ottoman expansion into Europe. Cleveland & Bunton (2013) discuss his conquests, saying that “[i]n 1520 Suleyman led the Ottoman forces in the capture of the important fortress city of Belgrade, which became the primary staging ground for subsequent Ottoman campaigns. During the rest of the 1520s, Budapest and most of Hungary were brought under Ottoman control. Then, in 1529, Suleyman shocked all of Christendom by marching an Ottoman army across the Danube and laying siege on Vienna, the Hapsburg imperial capital and the gateway to central Europe” (38). And while Suleyman was not successful in overtaking the city, the European powers understood the power of the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire was not only the strongest military at the time, but they were also dealing with many European powers who were very reliant on their alliances in order to mount a successful defense. Given the divisions in Europe at the time, it became easier for the Ottomans to carry out military campaigns (Faroqhi, 2007).

The Ottoman Empire Bureaucracy

Ottoman Administration

Given the wide empire that the Ottoman Empire controlled, they had to find ways to select leadership that would be loyal and efficient in governing the different territories amassed by the empire. Thus, what they did was appoint political leaders that would govern the territories under their reign. In the case of the Ottomans they “appointed military governors to administer the newly conquered provinces. These governors carried the title pasha, a word of Persian origin. Normally, a governor would be a member of the sultan’s household, trained in the palace in Istanbul and sent out to the province; from the late sixteenth century, however, it was not uncommon for governors to belong to the households of high ministers (viziers) in the sultan’s ruling council” (Hathaway, 2008: 48). The provinces that the Ottoman Empire controlled were called vilayet, and the governor, or leader of these areas was often called a vali/wali, or a beylerbeyi, which meant “the bey of beys” (Hathaway, 2008: 48).

In terms of the legal system for these areas, the governing rules were set by the Sultan (the highest position in the Ottoman Empire), and he would distribute the code book or kanun to be administered in that said territory. This book not only described the leadership positions of the vilayet, but also described the particular tax code that was to be administered (Hathaway, 2008).

Ottoman Empire Tax System

The Ottoman Empire had an intricate tax system that not only placed people in different categories of taxation. As Hathaway (2008) explains:

For taxation purposes, the population of the Ottoman Empire was divided into two large and rather nebulous categories: askeri (literally, ‘military’), the upper echelon who were exempt from taxes, and reaya (literally, ‘flock’), the lower, tax-paying echelon. The askeri included not only all members of the armed forces but also government officials, regardless of whether their roles were military or not, and the ulema. The reaya comprised peasants, artisans, and merchants, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, no matter how wealthy or influential. In Ottoman political philosophy, as it developed between the rise of the empire and the sixteenth century, these were not simply fiscal categories but represented underpinnings of the state. The askeri enabled the sultan to rule and the state to function. On the other hand, the sultan was bound to protect the reays; in return, they filled the state coffers. Maintaing a strict boundary between the two status groups was an ideal of Ottoman statecraft, not least because a large proportion of tax-paying reaya among the sultan’s subjects meant a healthy revenue base” (49)

However, this system was not without problems, in part due to the fact that some would try to bribe their way into military lists, so that they would not have to pay taxes (Hathaway, 2008), since this new status would offer the exemptions discussed above.

In addition to such distinctions, the Ottoman Empire also distinguished between the type of business/agriculture that one was working in, and taxed according to things such as economic output, etc… As it pertains to the taxing land, one must first know that the Ottoman Empire was in ownership of the land. However, they would receive payments by those who worked the land in exchange for the right to grow crops, fruits, and other products. Interestingly, “Before the conquest of the Arab provinces, most of the Ottoman territories were divided into estates known as timars, which has been employed as a means of supporting cavalry forces since at least the reign of Orhan, the second Ottoman sultan (c. 1324-62). Under this system, an Ottoman cavalryman would be settled on a plot of land. He would raise horseman for the sultan’s army on this land and pay for their equipment by collecting the peasant’s taxes. This system maintained the Ottoman armies while keeping the land under cultivation” (Hathaway, 2008: 49).

However, later there was a shift away from the timer system to more tax-based farming. Here, “Tax-farming was a system of delegated tax collection which had been in use in one from or another in various parts of the Muslim world since at least the ninth century. According to this system, a grandee in Egypt, for example, bid at auction for the right to collect the taxes of a given village or district, or of an urban operation such as port customs. The amount he bid and the price he paid if successful were based on the amount of taxes he expected to collect. Any amount he collected above the purchase price he kept as profit” (Hathaway, 2008: 50).

Later in the Ottoman system, when more in need of revenue (due to military conflicts, etc…), the Ottoman leaders would allow citizens to pay their taxes at a cheaper price if they paid years in advance. This would provide the Ottoman empire with much needed funds, and the idea was that it would also help farmers receive a lower tax amount because they were paying or more years.

The Devshirme (Collecting) System

The Ottoman Empire had an expansive bureaucratic system that allowed them to manage the empire, and find efficient ways in which to collect taxes from its subjects, as well as pay soldiers, buy weapons, and fund military campaigns. One of the central parts of the Ottoman Empire state bureaucracy was what was referred to as the devshirme or “collecting system”. In fact, the Ottoman Empire placed many from the collecting system into the Janissary Military, as well as into the civil service.

The devshirme system “consisted of a levy every few years on adolescent male Christian children from the European provinces of the empire. This was the method by which the Ottomans were able to tap the vast manpower reserves of their European Christian provinces and place them in the service of the state. The children were removed from their families and taken to Istanbul, where they were converted to Islam, tested and screened, and then trained for service in the empire” (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013: 42). Here, many of the boys studied a wide range of subjects that included but were not limited to languages, military studies, as well as the arts. Then, those who graduated were often assigned top positions within the state. 

The Ottomans partly chose to enforce the devshirme system on the non-Muslim populations in part because of a belief they had that it was not acceptable to do this to Muslim populations. In addition, by finding individuals from more distant areas, they would minimize or removed completely any other loyalties that the child may have had, leaving them only loyal to the Ottoman Empire itself (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013: 42-43). In addition, after they converted these boys to Islam, when the boys grew up and eventually were of adult age and married, having children of their own, since the Ottomans viewed those children as Muslim, they would not be eligible for many of the civil positions that others through the collective system received. This was in part because the Ottoman Empire worried about nepotism with regards to political and civil positions (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013).

The Ottoman Military

Janissary Infantry: The Janissary infantry was see in as the elite fighting force in the Ottoman Empire. According to scholars, “[t]he Janissaries were a slave army that, at its peak, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, was the outstanding military unit in Europe. Known for their discipline, morale, and professionalism, the Janissaries were paid regular salaries and were expected to be ready for military duty at all times. Forbidden to marry or to engage in trade, they were quartered in barracks and when not on active campaign were frequently deployed to maintain domestic law and order. By the time of Suleyman the Magnificent the Janissary corps numbered around 40,000 troops…” (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013: 43).

Sipahi Calvary: Along with the Janissary infantry, the Ottomans also had cavalry (or what is translated as sipahis). The sipahi had administrative and military roles. As Cleveland & Bunton (2013) explain, “[i]n an attempt to maintain a large army without making huge cash payments, the sultans awarded sipahis the rights to the income from agricultural lands known as timars. Each sipahi was assigned a specific timar from which he was allowed to collect the taxes that served as his salary. In return, the sipahi was expected to maintain order in his timar, to report for military service when called upon by the sultan, and, depending on the size of his income, to bring with him a certain number of armed and mounted retainers” (43).

Civil Service: The Ottoman Empire also had an expansive civil service where workers, often from the devshirme system, would help the empire function, by providing various level service. As scholars explain, “The Ottomans drew on the administrative traditions of the Byzantines, the Iranians, and the Arabs to create a highly differentiated civil service in which a veritable army of scribes kept detailed records of census surveys, treasury accounts, official appointments, and the rules and regulations of the government. Most of the directors and managers were drawn from the devshirme levy, while the middle-level Ottoman civil servants were freeborn Muslims who received on-the-job training as apprentices in one of the several ministries. Often referred to as men of the pen, they were crucial to the efficient functioning of the state (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013: 44).

Ulama: The Ulama was the religious leaders in the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan granted them the ability to establish and interpret the Islamic law of the state, as well as Islamic law with regards to family law. There did exist a ranking or hierarchy of judges in the Ottoman system. There was also a shaykh al-Islam who was tasked with filling religious position throughout the entire Ottoman Empire. While the ulama had some autonomy, their actions were still under the watch of the Sultan at the time (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013). 

The Millet System

The Ottoman Empire had a specific system with regards to religious minority within its borders. As the Ottoman Empire expanded, many of the lands that they overtook had large non-Muslim populations. The Ottoman Empire had a specific system in which to address these communities. As Cleveland & Bunton (2013) explain, “[p]artly out of the Islamic requirements of toleration and partly for pragmatic reasons, the sultans organized their non-Muslim subjects into religious communities called millets and granted them a considerable degree of autonomy. Each of the three major non-Muslim religions–Greek Orthodox Christianity, Judaism, and Armenian Christianity–was granted millet status and placed under the direct authority of the leading church official” (45). And while the Sultan approved all religious appointments within the respective faiths, it provided these religious groups with many rights such as freedom of religion, education system, and the use of non-Ottoman legal systems (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013). 

Again, the Ottoman Empire recognized that the Quran speaks on the protection of religious minorities, and being “People of the Book” (and the Quran refers to Jews and Christians–who have religious texts), they were to have the ability to practice their own faith without interruption. But in addition to this reason for the millet systems, the Ottoman Empire realized that with large expansive territories, it would be difficult to control the population, let alone when they were upset with a system that would not allow them any autonomy. So, as a strategic governing move, they believed that by ensuring these rights, that the likelihood of revolt against the Ottoman Empire would be less than if they carried out a more hardline approach towards religious minority groups. 

Transformation of the Ottoman Empire

As mentioned in the earlier section on the history of the Ottoman Empire, the empire existed for centuries until the end of World War I. While it was seen as a powerful empire, it did begin to decline or “transform” in power. Now, this did not happen immediately, but rather, over a prolonged period of time. In order to understand why the Ottoman Empire declined or had a reduction in power, one might be best served to first look at the economic influences of the empire, and in particular, as they related to international trade relationships with European powers.

For example, some scholars argue that “[e]xternal factors, most prominent among them the penetration of European merchant capital int the empire, caused a wrenching dislocation of the Ottoman economy. Beginning in the late sixteenth century, Ottoman raw materials, normally channeled into internal consumption and industry, were increasingly exchanged for European manufactured products. This trade benefitted Ottoman merchants but led to a decline in state revenues and a shortage of raw materials for domestic consumption” (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013: 46). This in turn led to an increase in the price of these sought after resources, , which led to inflation, and in turn, the state could not sustain its spending, which led to corruption and nepotism, as well as less control over the military forces) (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013).

Much of the negative economic effects of the Ottoman Empire also had to do with political and economic capitulations that the empire offered to European states and merchants. Looking to attract European products and business, the Ottoman Empire negotiated these agreements, offering a range of concessions in order to attract this business. These capitulation agreements existed as early as 1536, and continued for centuries. The early agreements did seem to benefit the Ottoman Empire, as their citizens now had more access to these European products. However, the Ottoman Empire negotiated a great deal of autonomy to these European business persons, so much so that the European citizens were held under their own law, and not accountable to the Ottoman law.

Over time, as the European powers became stronger (through trade and through their own industrial revolutions), and both economically and militarily, these powers continued to call for (and succeed in) writing additional capitulation agreements with the Ottoman Empire, which gave them additional rights within the empire. This economic weakness hurt the Ottoman Empire for a number of reasons. First, with the heavy reliance on trading with European states, the supply of raw goods was lessening (since much of it was being traded to Europe). This in turn led to further demand, and to higher inflation in the Ottoman Empire. High inflation led to more difficulties in paying salaries, for example, which in turn led to increased corruption and nepotism. The Janissary infantry, once unable to trade and own property, soon began to compensate for their decline in the worth of their income (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013).

In addition, the increased capitulations continued to grant outside states more power and autonomy within the Ottoman Empire. This led to a loss of some domestic control. European actors quickly took advantage of these updated capitulations, which included being outside of the Ottoman law (being held accountable to their home state laws). One can look to Egypt as just one example of the effect of the capitulations, and the governing response. As Cleveland & Bunton (2013), explain “[u]nder the terms of the Capitulations, which sheltered foreign nationals from Egyptian law, the usual method of dealing with such disputes was to have the consul of the foreigner hear the case and render a decision based on the law of the foreigner’s country. In these cases it was rare for foreigners to be convicted, no matter how grave the offenses they may have committed” (89). As a response, Egyptian leaders such as Isma’il the Magnificent (1863-1879) set up mixed courts which incorporated Ottoman law with European civil code (89).

Overall,  “The treaties not only had a devastating effete on the Ottoman economy but also had long-term political implications. By granting the various consuls jurisdiction over their nationals within the Ottoman Empire, the Capitulations accorded the consuls extraordinary powers that they abused with increasing frequency int the course of the nineteenth century” (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013: 46). In addition, with a weakening economy, inflation, and no raises for civil service and military members, the Ottoman Empire began to experience corruption and nepotism at high levels, which weakened the internal structures of the empire. 

Rebellions during the Ottoman Empire

In the early 1800s, the Ottoman Empire faced a series of rebellions. For example, in 1804, Serbia attempted to challenge Ottoman Rule. While it took decades, the Serbians were granted autonomy in the year 1830. Greece, also under Ottoman control, also decided to take actions against the Empire. Part of this had to do with the way that Greece was treated during this time. As scholars write:

“There were two components of the Ottoman Greek world in the early nineteenth century. The first lay outside Greece proper and consisted of the cosmopolitan Greek intellectual and commercial centers in Istanbul and the Russian Black Sea port of Odessa. Members of the flourishing community  in Odessa were prominent in shipping and trade, whereas the Phanariot…Greeks in Istanbul dominated the hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox church and held the influential positions of dragomans…[However,] [c]onditions on the Greek mainland were in marked contrast to the world of Phanar and Odessa. As was the case in other regions of the empire, the decline of the Ottoman central authority in Greece caused government to become less efficient and more capricious and led to the rise of local Turkish–and Greek–derebeys who controlled the land and exploited the peasantry. The alienation of the population from its Ottoman overlords was increased by the development of nationalism, in this case by a resurgence of Greek literature and a new awareness of the classical Greek past. The Ottomans came to be seen as alien oppressors, not imperial protectors” (69). Thus, in 1821, a local revolt began.  with European and Russian help, the Ottomans, through a 1827 naval loss, left Greece, although the sultan still wanted to remain in control of the territory.  It was in 1832 that Greece became independent, with oversight from Britain, France, and Russia (Cleveland & Bunton, 21).

Internal Challenges to the Ottoman Empire

As mentioned above, with a weakening economic system, high inflation, overspending, and an inability to provide sufficient salaries to many of the civil service workers, as well as military ranks, the Ottoman Empire began to see internal challenges to their rule. Not only did they lose more distant territories, it is important to note that there were also threats much closer to their home base. One of the most threatening attempts at revolt happened in Egypt, with Governor Muhammad Ali. Ali came to power in 1805, and he, and his son Ibrahim, helped the Ottomans fight the Wahhabi movement in Mecca and Medina in 1811. 

From then, embarked on not only a path of “modernization” in Egypt, but also political autonomy (and hope of independence) against the Ottomans. During this time, he not only pushed forward a series of initiatives (such as the School of Languages, the establishment of a government printing press, expansion of education subjects such as veterinary schools, among others), but he also tried to reduce Ottoman influence. One way he tried to do this was through the buildup of his military. 

By taking citizen lands, as well as taxing waqf land and other resources, he was able to fund his military. He also tried to revamp his economy to concentrate less on exports, and more in import substitution, so that he could further build up his own strength, while reducing the need for outside support. While there were many challenges to his economic program (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013), he wanted to raise his power, something that troubled the Ottomans.

Namely, he went on the offensive against Ottoman controlled territories. For example, “In order to obtain raw materials lacking in Egypt (especially timber for his navy) and a captive market for Egypt’s new industrial output, Muhammad Ali turned again the sultan and invaded Syria. From fall 1831 to December 1832 Ibrahim led the Egyptian army through Lebanon and Syria and across the Taurus Mountains into Anatolia, where he defeated the Ottoman forces and pushed on to Kuhtaya, only 150 miles from Istanbul” (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013: 66).Through an international treaty set up to stop the conflict, Ali, while he was unable to gain this independent status, was victorious in that his son was named the Governor of the Greater Syrian region (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013).

The Tanzimat

The Ottoman Empire, suffering from inflation, lessing control over local leaders and subjects, as well as the military, began instituting various reforms within the Empire. One of the most noted periods of reform was referred to as the Tanzimat, was an attempt to reform the legal systems, the military, to end corruption and nepotism, and to ensure that religious minorities would maintain loyalty to the empire (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013). For example, on the issue of nationality and rights for ethnic and religious minorities, the Ottomans tried to end the millet system in 1839, as well as 1856. Although it was unsuccessful at the time, a later law, the Nationality Law in 1869, “reinforced the principle that all individuals living within Ottoman domains shared a common citizenship regardless of their religion. The two decrees together with the Nationality Law represent a sharp break with customary Ottoman attitudes and show the extent to which the reformers were prepared to go in attempting to keep the state together” (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013: 77).

The Ottomans also found other ways to not only appease Europeans internally, but also to emulate European success. For example, they looked to develop new technologies, as well as to install European type political and legal institutions within the Ottoman Empire itself. Part of this was the Ottoman Constitution in 1876, which, among other things, did stress equality for all citizens living in the Ottoman Empire. Although Sultan Hamid II eventually suspended the constitution in 1878, it nonetheless show the direction that the Ottoman Empire was heading in terms of its institutions (Cleveland & Bunton, 2013).

One of the largest challenges to the Ottoman Empire, and one in which eventually led to the fall of the empire, was their high level of spending, and then, debt in attempts to get out of any financial deficits. As Cleveland & Bunton (2013) explain, in the 1800s, “European economic penetration of the Middle East acquired a new and more pervasive dimension. Added to the earlier sales of arms and other manufactured products was the provision of human amounts of capital investment and easy access to credit. As the local reformers struggled to finance their projects, European banks and financiers stepped forward with loans that seemed, as the beginning, to offer favorable terms” (75). However, these loans were somewhat deceiving. And as Cleveland and Bunton (2013) add, “…these loans became the Achilles’ heel of the reform movement, and the accumulation of indebtedness led directly to the British occupation of Egypt and to the less obvious but nonetheless equally real loss of economic sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire” (75).

For example, the Tanzimat initiatives, in order to be effectively implemented, needed to be funded. And given how expensive they were, the Ottomans had to borrow from European powers and banks. In fact, “[t]he first loan, for 3.3 million Ottoman lire, was arranged in 1854 during the Crimean War. Over the next twenty years, the Ottomans contracted an additional fifteen loans totaling over 200 million Otttoman lire (about 180 million sterling). As was to happen in Egypt, the increased level of debt meant that more and more funds had to be diverted away from the operating budget of the empire and directed instead to paying interest on the lans. By 1874 about 60 percent of the state’s total expenditure was devoted to serving the debt” (80). They were unable to do so starting in 1876, and from that point on, creditors took further control (and had more influence) of the Ottoman Empire. As Cleveland & Bunton (2013) explain, 

“European diplomats rushed in to protect European creditors. The immediate crisis was finally resolved by the Decree of Muharram (1881), which authorized the establishment of an Ottoman Public Debt Administration and pledged to reserve certain state revenues to service the debt. The real effect of the decree was the surrender of Ottoman financial independence to European interests. The Public Debt Administration was composed of representatives of the main creditors and was authorized to collect designated revenues and use them to pay the interest on the debt. The payments were given priority over all other Ottoman expenditures. The debt continued to be a burden on the empire and its successor states, and only in 1954 did the government of Turkey fully repay its share” (80).

The Ottoman Empire and World War I

Given the Tanzimat reforms, the increased presence by European powers (both militarily and economically) with the Ottoman Empire, as well as the overall weakening of the Ottoman Empire, there were genuine concerns about the fate of the empire in Istanbul and elsewhere. There were specific calls by some to revert back to more attention on Islam as a foundational principle of the empire.

However, with the Ottomans siding with Germany during World War I, and with British, French, and Russian actions against them, they came to a defeat in 1918.


As noted in our discussion on the history of the Ottoman Empire, there were a series of overall developments that eventually led to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Unable to control their territories, domestic instability and corruption, along with changing societal pressures led the last leader of the Ottoman Empire, Abdul Hamid to try to reverse the course of the empire. 



Cleveland, W. & Bunton, M. (2013). A History of the Modern Middle East. Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press.

Fanack (2014). Saudi Arabia: The Ottoman Period (1517-1915).  Available Online:

Faroqhi, S. (2007). The Ottoman Empire and the World Around it. New York, New York. I.B. Taurus. 

Hathaway, J. (2008). The Arabs Under Ottoman Rule, 1516-1800. Pearson. 

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