Fall of the Ottoman Empire
Some scholars argue the power of the Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

 began waning by 1683, and without the acquisition of significant new wealth the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 went into a fast decline. Ottomanist scholars, however, have based research on Ottoman archives that show the decline narrative to be tenuous — their historiography describes an economically vibrant and growing empire with a sophisticated political leadership brought to a premature end after the First World War.

The Ottoman state

The Ottomans saw military expansion and fiscalism
Fiscalism is a term sometimes used to refer the economic theory that the government should rely on fiscal policy as the main instrument of macroeconomic policy. Fiscalism in this sense is contrasted with monetarism, which is associated with reliance on monetary policy....

 as the source of wealth, with agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 seen as more important than manufacture
Manufacturing is the use of machines, tools and labor to produce goods for use or sale. The term may refer to a range of human activity, from handicraft to high tech, but is most commonly applied to industrial production, in which raw materials are transformed into finished goods on a large scale...

 and commerce
While business refers to the value-creating activities of an organization for profit, commerce means the whole system of an economy that constitutes an environment for business. The system includes legal, economic, political, social, cultural, and technological systems that are in operation in any...

. Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 mercantilists gave more emphasis to manufacture and industry
Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

 in the wealth-power-wealth equation, moving towards capitalist
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 economics comprising expanding industries and markets whereas the Ottomans continued along the trajectory of territorial expansion
In general, expansionism consists of expansionist policies of governments and states. While some have linked the term to promoting economic growth , more commonly expansionism refers to the doctrine of a state expanding its territorial base usually, though not necessarily, by means of military...

, traditional monopolies
A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity...

, conservative land holding and agriculture.


Ottoman census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

es began in the early 19th century, with population approximations having to be created with demographic patterns for earlier periods. It is unclear why the population in the 18th century was lower
Population decline
Population decline can refer to the decline in population of any organism, but this article refers to population decline in humans. It is a term usually used to describe any great reduction in a human population...

 than that in the 16th century. However, it began to rise to reach 25-32 million in 1800, with around 10 million in the European provinces (primarily the Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

), 11 million in the Asiatic provinces and around 3 million in the African provinces. Population densities were higher in the European provinces, double those in Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

, which were triple Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 or Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 and five times Arabia. In 1914, the Ottoman population was 26 million, similar to that of 1800, despite being reduced from over 3 million square kilometres to around a third of that. This means there was a doubling of population, increasing population densities in the empire. The average lifespan comprised 49 years towards the end of the empire, compared to mid-twenties in Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

 at the beginning of the 19th century. Epidemic
In epidemiology, an epidemic , occurs when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human population, and during a given period, substantially exceed what is expected based on recent experience...

 diseases and famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

 caused major disruption and demographic changes. In 1785 around one sixth of the Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian population died from plague and Aleppo saw its population reduced by 20% in the 18th century. Six famines hit Egypt alone between 1687 and 1731 and the last famine to hit Anatolia was four decades later. They were brought under control in the 19th century with improvements in sanitation
Sanitation is the hygienic means of promoting health through prevention of human contact with the hazards of wastes. Hazards can be either physical, microbiological, biological or chemical agents of disease. Wastes that can cause health problems are human and animal feces, solid wastes, domestic...

, healthcare and transportation of foodstuffs
Foodstuffs is a group of three New Zealand grocery and liquor retailers' cooperatives based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch which collectively control an estimated 57% of the New Zealand grocery market...


The rise of port
A port is a location on a coast or shore containing one or more harbors where ships can dock and transfer people or cargo to or from land....

 cities saw the clustering of populations caused by the growth of steamships and railroads. Urbanization
Urbanization, urbanisation or urban drift is the physical growth of urban areas as a result of global change. The United Nations projected that half of the world's population would live in urban areas at the end of 2008....

 increased from 1700–1922, with towns and cities growing, especially with the improvements in health and sanitation, which made them more attractive to live and work in. Port cities like Salonica, in Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, saw a population rise from 55,000 in 1800 to 160,000 in 1912 and Izmir
Izmir is a large metropolis in the western extremity of Anatolia. The metropolitan area in the entire Izmir Province had a population of 3.35 million as of 2010, making the city third most populous in Turkey...

 saw 150,000 in 1800 grow to 300,000 in 1914. Some regions conversely had population falls — Belgrade saw its population drop from 25,000 to 8,000 due to political causes. Population statistics thus mask varying experiences in different regions.

Economic and political migrations had impact across the empire, for instance the Russian and Austria-Habsburg annexation of the Crimean and Balkan regions saw large influxes of Muslim refugees – 200,000 Crimean Tartars fleeing to Dobruja
Dobruja is a historical region shared by Bulgaria and Romania, located between the lower Danube river and the Black Sea, including the Danube Delta, Romanian coast and the northernmost part of the Bulgarian coast...

. Between 1783 and 1913, approximately 5-7 million refugees flooded into the Ottoman Empire, at least 3.8 million of whom were Russians. Some migrations left indelible marks such as tensions (Turkey and Bulgaria) whereas centrifugal effects were noticed in other territories, simpler demographics emerging from diverse populations. Economies were also impacted with the loss of artisans, merchants, manufacturers and agriculturists.


During the 19th century, new technologies radically transformed the challenge of distance to both travel and communications. Through the invention of the steam engine
Steam engine
A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products. Non-combustion heat sources such as solar power, nuclear power or geothermal energy may be...

 in Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, water and land transport revolutionised the conduct of trade and commerce. The steam ship meant journeys became predictable, times shrank and unimaginable weights could be carried more cheaply. Quataert cites the Istanbul-Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 route, a main trade artery, taking as much as eighty-one days in the past, was now reduced to ten days. Sail ships would carry 50 to 100 tonnes — steamships could now carry 1,000 tonnes.

New routes once not possible could now be tranversed – rivers that carried cargoes only in one direction could now be traversed both ways bringing innumerable benefits to regions. New routes like the Suez Canal were created, prompted by steamships, changing trade demographics across the Near East
Near East
The Near East is a geographical term that covers different countries for geographers, archeologists, and historians, on the one hand, and for political scientists, economists, and journalists, on the other...

 as trade was rerouted. Quataert’s research shows volume of trade began to rise in the 19th century. By 1900 sailboats accounted for 5% of ships visiting Istanbul, however this 5% was greater in number than any year of the 19th century. In 1873, Istanbul handled 4.5 million tons of shipping
Shipping has multiple meanings. It can be a physical process of transporting commodities and merchandise goods and cargo, by land, air, and sea. It also can describe the movement of objects by ship.Land or "ground" shipping can be by train or by truck...

 – this was 10 million tons by 1900. These ships accelerated growth of port cities with deep harbours
A harbor or harbour , or haven, is a place where ships, boats, and barges can seek shelter from stormy weather, or else are stored for future use. Harbors can be natural or artificial...

 to accommodate ever-growing ships. Europeans however owned 90% of commercial shipping operating in Ottoman waters. Not all regions benefited from steam ships as rerouting meant trade from Iran, Iraq and Arabia now did not need to go through Istanbul, Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

, and even Beirut
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon, with a population ranging from 1 million to more than 2 million . Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coastline, it serves as the country's largest and main seaport, and also forms the Beirut Metropolitan...

, leading to losses in these territories.

The Ottoman world split into the European provinces of wheeled transport and non-wheeled transport in Anatolia and the Arab world
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

. Railroads revolutionized land transport profoundly, cutting journey times drastically, promoting population movements, and changing rural-urban relations. Railroads offered cheap and regular transport for bulk goods, allowing the potential for fertile interior regions to be exploited for the first time. When built near these regions, agriculture developed rapidly, with hundreds of thousands of tons of cereals being shipped by this way. Railroads had additional benefits for non-commercial passengers who began using them, with 8 million passengers using the 1,054-mile Balkan lines and 7 million using the 1,488-miles Anatolian. Railroads also created a new source of employment for over 13,000 workers by 1911. With low population densities and lack of capital, the Ottomans did not develop extensive railroad or shipping industries. Most of the capital for railroads came from European financiers, which gave them considerable financial control.

Existing economic activity did not fall, on the contrary rising. The business and animals used previously to transport goods between regions found new work in moving goods to and from trunk lines. The Aegean areas alone had over 10,000 camel
A camel is an even-toed ungulate within the genus Camelus, bearing distinctive fatty deposits known as humps on its back. There are two species of camels: the dromedary or Arabian camel has a single hump, and the bactrian has two humps. Dromedaries are native to the dry desert areas of West Asia,...

s working to supply local railroads — Ankara station had a thousand camels at a time waiting to unload goods. Furthermore, additional territories running by railroads came under development and agriculture. Like sailing vessels, land transport contributed to and invigorated trade and commerce across the empire.


The Ottoman Empire was an agrarian economy, labour scarce, land rich and capital poor. Majority of the population earned their living from small family holdings and this contributed to around 40% of taxes for the empire directly as well as indirectly through customs revenues on exports.

Cultivator families drew their livelihoods from a complex set of different economic activities and not merely from growing crops. This included growing a variety of crops for their own consumption as well as rearing animals for their milk
Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to the baby and can reduce the risk of many...

 and wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

. Some rural families manufactured goods for sale to others, for instance Balkan villagers traveled to Anatolia and Syria for months to sell their wool cloth. This pattern established for the 18th century had not significantly changed at the beginning of the 20th century. That is not to say that there were no changes in the agrarian sector. Nomads played an important role in the economy, providing animal products, textiles and transportation. They were troublesome for the state and hard to control – sedentarization programs took place in the 19th century, coinciding with huge influxes of refugees. This dynamic had the effect of a decline in animal rearing by tribes and an increase in cultivation. The rising commercialization of agriculture commencing in the 18th century meant more people began to grow more. With increased urbanisation, new markets created greater demand, easily met with the advent of railroads. State policy requiring a greater portion of taxes to be paid in cash influenced the increased production. Finally, increased demand for consumer goods themselves drove an increase in production to pay for the same.

Quataert argues production rose due to a number of factors. An increase in productivity resulted from irrigation projects, intensive agriculture and utilisation of modern agricultural tools increasing in use throughout the 19th century. By 1900, tens of thousands of plows, reapers and other agricultural technologies such as combines were found across the Balkan, Anatolian and Arab lands. However, most of the increases in production came from vast areas of land coming under further cultivation. Families began increasing the amount of time at work, bringing fallow land into use. Sharecropping increased utilising land that had been for animal pasturage. Along with state policy, millions of refugees brought vast tracts of untilled land into production. The empty central Anatolian basin and steppe zone in the Syrian provinces were instances where government agencies parcelled out smallholdings of land to refugees. This was a recurring pattern across the empire, small landholdings the norm. Foreign holdings remained unusual despite Ottoman political weakness – probably due to strong local and notable resistance and labour shortages. Issawi et al. have argued that division of labour was not possible, being based on religious grounds. İnalcik however demonstrates that division of labour was historically determined and open to change. Agricultural reform programs in the late 19th century saw the state founding agricultural schools, model farms, and education of a self-perpetuating bureaucracy of agrarian specialists focused on increasing agricultural exports. Between 1876 and 1908, the value of agricultural exports just from Anatolia rose by 45% whilst tithe proceeds rose by 79%.

However, cheap American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 grain imports undermined agricultural economies across Europe, in some cases causing outright economic and political crises.


Whilst looking at Ottoman manufacture, a significant area of technology transfer, Quataert argues one must not only look at large factories but also the small workshops: "One will find then find that Ottoman industry was not a "dying, unadaptive, unevolving sector...[but] vital, creative, evolving and diverse".

Over the 19th century, a shift occurred to rural female labour with guild
A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society...

 organized urban-based male labor less important. The global markets for Ottoman goods fell somewhat with certain sectors expanding. However, any changes were compensated by an increase in domestic consumption and demand. Mechanized production even at its peak remained an insignificant portion of total output. The lack of capital, as in other areas of the economy, deterred the mechanization of production. Nonetheless, a number of factories did emerge in Istanbul, Ottoman Europe and Anatolia. In the 1830s steam powered silk reeling factories emerged in Salonica, Edirne
Edirne is a city in Eastern Thrace, the northwestern part of Turkey, close to the borders with Greece and Bulgaria. Edirne served as the capital city of the Ottoman Empire from 1365 to 1453, before Constantinople became the empire's new capital. At present, Edirne is the capital of the Edirne...

, West Anatolia and Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...


Under the late 18th century fine textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

s, hand-made yarns and leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

s were in high demand outside the empire. However, these declined by the early 19th century and half a century later production for export re-emerged in the form of raw silk and oriental carpets. The two industries alone employed 100,000 persons in 1914 two-thirds in carpet-making for European and American buyers. Most workers were women and girls, receiving wages that were amongst the lowest in the manufacturing sector. Much of the manufacturing shifted to the urban areas during the 18th century, in order to benefit from the lower rural costs and wages.

Guilds operating prior to the 18th century did see a decline through the 18th and 19th centuries. Guilds provided some form of security in prices, restricting production and controlling quality and provided support to members who hit hard times. However, with market forces driving down prices their importance declined, and with the Janissaries as their backers, being disbanded by Mahmut II in 1826, their fate was sealed.

By far the majority of producers targeted the 26 million domestic consumers who often lived in adjacent provinces to the producer. Analysing these producers is difficult, as they did not belong to organizations that left records.

Manufacturing through the period 1600-1914 witnessed remarkable continuities in the loci of manufacturing; industrial centers flourishing in the 17th century were often still active in 1914. Manufacturing initially struggled against Asian and then European competition in the 18th and 19th centuries whereby handicraft industries were displaced by cheaper industrially produced imports. However, manufacturing achieved surprising output levels, with the decline of some industries being more than compensated by the rise of new industries. Decline of handicrafts production saw a shift of output move to agricultural commodity production and other manufacturing output.


Domestic trade vastly exceeded international trade in both value and volume though researchers have little in direct measurements. Much of Ottoman history has been based on European archives that did not document the empire’s internal trade, resulting in it being underestimated.

Quataert illustrates the size of internal trade by considering some examples. The French Ambassador in 1759 commented that total textile imports into the empire would clothe a maximum of 800,000 of a population of at least 20 million. In 1914 less than a quarter of agricultural produce was being exported the rest being consumed internally. The early 17th century saw trade in Ottoman-made goods in the Damascus province exceeded five times the value of all foreign-made goods sold there. Finally, amongst the sparse internal trade data are some 1890s statistics for three non-leading cities. Their sum value of their interregional trade in the 1890s equaled around 5% of total Ottoman international export trade at the time. Given their minor status, cities like Istanbul, Edirne, Salonica, Damascus, Beirut or Aleppo being far greater than all three, this is impressively high. These major trade centres, dozens of medium sized towns, hundreds of small towns and thousands of villages remains uncounted – it puts into perspective the size of domestic trade.

Two factors that had major impact on both internal and international trade were war
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

s and government policies. Wars had major impact on commerce especially where there were territorial losses that would rip apart Ottoman economic unity, often destroying relationships and patterns that had endured centuries. The role of government policy is more hotly debated – however most policy-promoted barriers to Ottoman international and internal commerce disappeared or were reduced sharply. However, there appears little to indicate a significant decline in internal trade other than disruption caused by war and ad-hoc territorial losses.


Global trade increased around sixty-fourfold in the 19th century whereas for the Ottomans it increased around ten to sixteenfold. Exports of cotton alone doubled between 1750 and 1789. The largest increases were recorded from the ports of Smyrna
Smyrna was an ancient city located at a central and strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia. Thanks to its advantageous port conditions, its ease of defence and its good inland connections, Smyrna rose to prominence. The ancient city is located at two sites within modern İzmir, Turkey...

 and Salonica in the Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

, however they were partially offset by some reductions from Syria and Istanbul. While cotton exports to France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 doubled between the late 17th and late 18th centuries, exports of semi-processed goods to northwest Europe also increased. Whilst the Ottoman market was important to Europe in the 16th century, it was no longer so by 1900. The Ottoman Empire was not shrinking — quite the opposite in fact – however it was becoming relatively less significant.

As regards trade imbalance, only Istanbul ran an import surplus. Both Lampe and McGowan argue that the empire as a whole, and the Balkans in particular, continued to record an export surplus throughout the period. The balance of trade however moved against the Ottomans from the 18th century onwards. They would re-export high value luxury goods, mainly silks from the Far East
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

 and exported many of its own goods. Luxury goods began being imported. Through the 18th century, exports moved to unprocessed goods whilst at the same time commodities were imported from European colonies. Most of these commodities were produced by slave labour
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 undercutting domestic production. However, according to most scholars, a favourable balance of trade still existed at the end of the 18th century. 19th century trade increased multi-fold, however exports remained similar to 18th century levels. Foodstuffs and raw materials were the focus with carpets and raw silk appearing in the 1850s. Although the basket of exports remained generally constant, relative importance of the goods would vary considerably.

From the 18th century onwards, foreign merchants and Ottoman non-Muslims
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 became dominant in the growing international trade. With increasing affluence, their political significance grew especially in Syria. Muslim merchants however dominated internal trade and trade between the interior and coastal cities.

Foreign trade, a minor part of the Ottoman economy, became slightly more important towards the end of the 19th century with the rise of protectionism in Europe and producers looking to new markets. Its growth was seen throughout the period under study, particularly the 19th century. Throughout, the balance of payments was roughly on par with no significant long-term deficits or surpluses.


Ottoman bureaucratic
A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a governmental or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution, and are occasionally characterized by officialism and red tape.-Weberian bureaucracy:...

 and military expenditure was raised by taxation, generally from the agrarian population. Pamuk notes considerable variation in monetary policy and practice in different parts of the empire. Although there was monetary regulation, enforcement was often lax and little effort was made to control the activities of merchants, moneychangers, and financiers. During the "price revolution" of the 16th century, when inflation took off, there were price increases of around 500% from the end of the 15th century to the close of the 17th. However, the problem of inflation did not remain and the 18th century did not witness the problem again.

The 18th century witnessed increasing expenditure for military related expenditure and the 19th century for both bureaucracy and military. McNeil describes an Ottoman stagnation through centre-periphery relations – a moderately taxed centre with periphery provinces suffering the burden of costs. Though this analysis may apply to some provinces, like Hungary, recent scholarship has found that most of the financing was through provinces closer to the centre. As the empire modernized itself in line with European powers, the role of the central state grew and diversified. In the past, it had contented itself with raising tax revenues and war making. It increasingly began to address education, health and public works, activities that used to be organised by religious leaders in the communities – this can be argued as being necessary in a rapidly changing world and was a necessary Ottoman response. At the end of the 18th century, there were around 2,000 civil officials ballooning to 35,000 in 1908. The Ottoman military increasingly adopted western military technologies and methods, increasing army personnel of 120,000 in 1837 to over 120,000 in the 1880s. Other innovations were increasingly being adopted including the telegraph, railroads and photography, utilised against old mediators who were increasingly marginalised.

Up to 1850, the Ottoman Empire was the only empire to have never contracted foreign debt and its financial situation was generally sound. As the 19th century increased the state’s financial needs, it knew it could not raise the revenues from taxation or domestic borrowings, so resorted to massive debasement and then issued paper money. It had considered European debt, which had surplus funds available for overseas investment, but avoided it aware of the associated dangers of European control. However, the Crimean war of 1853-1856 resulted in the necessity of such debt.

Why had the Ottomans not developed their own financial system in line with London and Paris? It was not for the want of trying. Since the beginning of the 18th century, the government was aware of the need for a reliable bank. The Galata bankers, mostly Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 or Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

, as well as the Bank of Constantinople did not have the capital or competence for such large undertakings. As such, Ottoman borrowings followed the Heckscher-Ohlin theorem.

Borrowing spanned two distinct periods, 1854-1876. The first is the most important resulted in defaults in 1875. Borrowings were normally at 4% to 5% of the nominal value of the bond, new issues however being sold at prices well below these values netted of commissions involved in the issue, resulting in a much higher effective borrowing rate – coupled with a deteriorating financial situation, the borrowing rate rarely went below 10% after 1860.

European involvement began with the creation of the Public Debt Administration, after which a relatively peaceful period meant no wartime expenditures and the budget could be balanced with lower levels of external borrowing. The semi-autonomous Egyptian province also ran up huge debts in the late 19th century resulting in foreign military intervention. With security from the Debt Administration further European capital entered the empire in railroad, port and public utility projects, increasing foreign capital control of the Ottoman economy. The debt burden increased, consuming a sizeable chunk of the Ottoman tax revenues – by the early 1910s deficits had begun to grow again with military expenditure growing and another default may have occurred had it not been for the outbreak of the First World War.

The decline theory

Berkes was one of the first writers in the 1960s to summarise the works on Ottoman socio-economic history. He suggested one of the reasons for Ottoman economic decline was the inability of the ruling class
Ruling class
The term ruling class refers to the social class of a given society that decides upon and sets that society's political policy - assuming there is one such particular class in the given society....

 to make a clear choice between war and the more conventional types of capital formation. Berkes' work however focused on the confrontation of the Ottomans and the Europeans, and though important, had little detail on the commercial activities of the state.

Itzkowitz and İnalcik state Ottoman writers attributed the Empire’s troubles to the dissolution of the circle of equity, erosion of the sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

’s authority, disruption of the timar system and the demise of the devshirme, "describing symptoms rather than causes". They argue causes comprised geographical and logistical limitations, population growth after the 16th century, inflation due to influx of Peruvian silver and the end of profitable conquests. Itzkowitz states, "the state could find no remedy" to these problems, and İnalcik, "As a result of these upheavals, the Ottoman Empire of the seventeenth century was no longer the vital empire it had been in the sixteenth" – however neither show the issues remained a long-term problem.

Several factors contributed to the Empire's decline:
  • The European powers wanted to expand
  • Corrupt religious opposition to critical thinking
    Critical thinking
    Critical thinking is the process or method of thinking that questions assumptions. It is a way of deciding whether a claim is true, false, or sometimes true and sometimes false, or partly true and partly false. The origins of critical thinking can be traced in Western thought to the Socratic...

    ; the corrupt ulema
    Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

    wanted to "protect" their position as heads of state. They discouraged creativity to keep the populace from information that might be disseminated through books other than the Koran. Muslims had been aware of the printing press
    Printing press
    A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

     since the 15th century, but it was not until 1727–272 years after Gutenberg
    Gutenberg may refer to:People:* Johannes Gutenberg , inventor of movable type printing* Beno Gutenberg , a German-born seismologist* Erich Gutenberg , a German economistPlaces:...

     that the Şeyhülislam released a fetva decreeing its compatibility with Islam.
  • Economic problems:
    • Competition from trade from the Americas
      The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

    • Competition from cheap products from India
      India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

       and the Far East
    • Development of other trade routes
    • Rising unemployment
      Unemployment , as defined by the International Labour Organization, occurs when people are without jobs and they have actively sought work within the past four weeks...

       within the Empire
  • Government problems:
    • Ottoman Empire became less centralised, and central control weakened
    • Sultans being less severe in maintaining rigorous standards of integrity in the administration of the Empire
  • Political problems:
    • Sultans becoming less sensitive to public opinion
    • The low quality Sultans of the 17th and 18th centuries
    • The ending of the execution of Sultans' sons and brothers, imprisoning them instead
    • This apparently humane process led to men becoming Sultan after spending years in prison — not the best training for absolute power

Economic problem

The fall of the Ottoman state is often attributed to the failure of its economic structure. The Ottoman state organization was planned when the economics of the period were agricultural. Its public functions depended on public investments through an institution called vakifs. As the economy of the times changed, the Ottoman state was isolated from the public as its economic participation in development of the inns, hospitals, libraries, or indeed as explained before every function was dependent on public cooperation. As the west moved to industrialization, Ottomans failed to adapt their system to the changes. At the turn of the 19th century modern taxation was not used and utility investments were not adapted to modern needs. With the change of trade routes, the Ottoman Empire lost its main income source. Inability to industrialize the state and too great a dependence on farmers as a source of revenue through taxation were other factors. The economy of the Ottoman state was no match to its counterparts and signaled the end of the empire. The trade
Trade is the transfer of ownership of goods and services from one person or entity to another. Trade is sometimes loosely called commerce or financial transaction or barter. A network that allows trade is called a market. The original form of trade was barter, the direct exchange of goods and...

 dynamics were based on non-state elements. As early as the 1470s Greeks and Jews were the premier traders, not the Ottomans. The Ottoman state concept was based on establishing public order. Consequently, the Ottomans were forced to protect the Greek elite in order to maintain a functioning economy. They were, moreover, constantly obliged to deal with social unrest among the empire's Greek community. When the Greek elite turned against the Ottomans, the empire lost control. The Greek elite blamed the economic problems on the Ottomans and offered an escape route to Greeks by pursuing a nation of their own. In reality, even after the Greek revolution
Greek War of Independence
The Greek War of Independence, also known as the Greek Revolution was a successful war of independence waged by the Greek revolutionaries between...

, the same elite was controlling the economy with the trade routes having already been altered.


The Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 saw even greater changes. The Ottoman Empire did not have a social structure well adjusted to the free-market capitalism needed to build factories. The Empire also lacked crucial supplies of coal and other needed commodities.

Communication technology of its time did not migrate into state structure. With improvements in communication the population that was distributed along the trade routes became concentrated on the centres. This population was highly affected by the economic competition of that time. The populations that moved into cities faced hardships which tested their patience, persistence, and adaptability. The Ottomans had to keep the system running under these social pressures.


During the rise and growth era, almost all trade between Asia and Europe had to pass through Ottoman lands or seas. Revolution in shipping in Europe beginning in the 16th century allowed European traders to by-pass the Empire. This also caused a major shift in trade patterns from the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 to the oceans. With most of the Empire's population and major centres located on the Mediterranean, this greatly affected the Empire as well as other southern European states such as Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...


An inevitable side effect of this large scale trade with Europe was increasing links between Ottoman provinces and Europeans. As Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 became dependent on Egyptian cotton for its textile mills, Britain became even more involved in the internal politics of that country, eventually declaring it a protectorate
In history, the term protectorate has two different meanings. In its earliest inception, which has been adopted by modern international law, it is an autonomous territory that is protected diplomatically or militarily against third parties by a stronger state or entity...

 in 1882. Lebanese silk was mostly shipped to Marseilles, and increasingly France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 came to dominate that area. Many of the provinces were more closely linked to Europe than to Istanbul. When railways were built, largely by Europeans, they linked to the coast, not to the capital.

As a result the Ottoman Empire shifted from being a producer of manufactured goods to being a producer of raw materials for European industry. Different parts of the empire moved towards producing different commodities. Mount Lebanon
Mount Lebanon
Mount Lebanon , as a geographic designation, is a Lebanese mountain range, averaging above 2,200 meters in height and receiving a substantial amount of precipitation, including snow, which averages around four meters deep. It extends across the whole country along about , parallel to the...

 became a centre of silk production. Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, once one of the world's great steel producers, grew foodstuffs. Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 became one of the world's largest producers of cotton.

Administrative problems

In any effort to modernise or reform the empire the Sultan was always opposed by the powerful military and religious elite who did not want to lose their traditional powers. One of the most powerful of these elites was the powerful religious body known as the ulema
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

. If the ulema was displeased with a Sultan a decree known as a fetva would be issued and the Sultan would be removed from power. The threat of a fetva was a powerful weapon used many times by the ulema to force the Sultan to back down from reforms.

Unstable leadership was also a problem. The second most powerful man in the Empire was the Grand Vizier
Grand Vizier
Grand Vizier, in Turkish Vezir-i Azam or Sadr-ı Azam , deriving from the Arabic word vizier , was the greatest minister of the Sultan, with absolute power of attorney and, in principle, dismissable only by the Sultan himself...

, the advisor in chief to the Sultan. This position was considerably weakened by the fact that to prevent a fetva or coup the Sultan would often sacrifice his Grand Vizier. In turbulent times Sultans would thus frequently go through dozens of Grand Viziers in only a few years. This prevented a stable government, the thing most required in turbulent times.

Other practices weakened the Empire's leadership. One of the most problematic was the method of ensuring that an uncle or brother of the Sultan did not try to seize power. For the duration of the Sultan's reign they would be locked away in a small apartment, known as a kafes, never to see the outside world. Whenever a Sultan died or was deposed of with no male heir, his brother or uncle would be taken out of the kafe and made ruler of the Empire.

Sultans could take several wives and many concubines. It was thus possible for a sultan to have many children, and in particular, many sons. A practice of fratricide grew up, in which on the death of a sultan, one of the sons would become the new sultan, who would then be isolated from all his brothers. Although this did not always happen, many were executed. The thought behind this practice was that it was considered important to remove any possibility of having different focal points for power, and a rationalisation was that the death of a few would be a small price to pay for political stability. The fear of civil war, in which many could die, was a strong driving force for this practice.

Political problems

The autocratic, imperial system of Ottoman rule changed little over the centuries, while its Western European neighbours slowly evolved into fairly stable nation-states. The loss of nearly a quarter of the Empire's territory added to the already existing economic problems to make the situation ripe for revolution. The situation was especially dangerous in Constantinople, which had thousands of refugees fleeing the Balkans. A number of small coups broke out, trying to overthrow the Sultan. None of them were well organised or even remotely successful, but they filled Abd-ul-Hamid II with a paranoia that led to a self-imposed isolation in the palace of Yildiz
-Given name:* Yildiz Akdogan, Turkish-born Danish politician* Yıldız İbrahimova, Turkish singer.* Yıldız Kaplan, Turkish actress, fashion model and pop singer* Yıldız Kenter, Turkish actress and lecturer* Yıldız Tilbe, Turkish singer-Surname:...


The entire Ottoman Empire was built around the Sultan, but he never left his palace and would only see a few trusted advisors. Unlike other states of Europe, such as Germany, where a weak ruler could be made up for by a powerful Chancellor, there was no one who could make up for a weak Sultan. While in his self-imposed exile the Sultan's Empire continued to fall apart. Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 had long been only loosely connected to the Ottoman Empire and in 1882 the British invaded it for the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

. In 1896 Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 revolted and received aid from the Greeks
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. This soon led to a war between the Ottoman Empire and its former province. For the first time in centuries the Ottoman Empire won a war unaided. Greece was invaded from the North and the Ottoman armies marched south as far as Lamia
Lamia (city)
Lamia is a city in central Greece. The city has a continuous history since antiquity, and is today the capital of the regional unit of Phthiotis and of the Central Greece region .-Name:...

 before King George I of Greece
George I of Greece
George I was King of Greece from 1863 to 1913. Originally a Danish prince, George was only 17 years old when he was elected king by the Greek National Assembly, which had deposed the former king Otto. His nomination was both suggested and supported by the Great Powers...

 agreed to an armistice. Greece lost some of Thessaly
Thessaly is a traditional geographical region and an administrative region of Greece, comprising most of the ancient region of the same name. Before the Greek Dark Ages, Thessaly was known as Aeolia, and appears thus in Homer's Odyssey....

, and had to pay an indemnity to Turkey. Crete was, however, given almost complete autonomy to appease Britain and Russia which did not want to see its Christian inhabitants returned to the Turks.

The military victory did nothing to stop the rise of revolutionary sentiments. In 1902 a meeting in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 brought together the leadership of the "Young Turks
Young Turks
The Young Turks , from French: Les Jeunes Turcs) were a coalition of various groups favouring reformation of the administration of the Ottoman Empire. The movement was against the absolute monarchy of the Ottoman Sultan and favoured a re-installation of the short-lived Kanûn-ı Esâsî constitution...

" — a group, mainly made of students, who were fervent Turkish nationalists wishing to do away with the archaic Empire. In Bulgaria and Macedonia terrorists started bombing Ottoman banks and government buildings demanding total independence. The two rebellions eventually joined in 1908 when an army regiment stationed in Macedonia rebelled and fled into the hills. It was joined by Macedonian rebels as well as large numbers of Young Turks. This group called itself the Committee of Union and Progress
Committee of Union and Progress
The Committee of Union and Progress began as a secret society established as the "Committee of Ottoman Union" in 1889 by the medical students İbrahim Temo, Abdullah Cevdet, İshak Sükuti and Ali Hüseyinzade...

 (CUP). Soon other regiments in Bulgaria and Rumelia mutinied as did many of the Anatolian soldiers sent in to end the rebellion. Abd-ul-Hamid had no choice but to give in to the revolutionaries' demands. A constitution was adopted and a parliament created. Abd-ul-Hamid was now the leader of an Ottoman constitutional monarchy. Soon after the first election, which CUP won easily, there was a counter coup by the more conservative military officers. The coup failed to destroy the new government, mainly due to the skill of an unknown Adjutant-Major named Mustafa Kemal
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was an Ottoman and Turkish army officer, revolutionary statesman, writer, and the first President of Turkey. He is credited with being the founder of the Republic of Turkey....

. When the liberals discovered that the Sultan had aided the coup they decided that he must go. Thus a fetva was issued and Abd-ul-Hamid II's long reign was at an end.


Inefficiencies originating from the size of the empire were significant. Trying to keep the empire intact through internal and external wars was a costly process which compromised the Ottoman Empire's capacity to introduce reform.

To create a modern state out of the Ottoman Empire the area that most needed redevelopment was the military. Most Sultans realised this, but their efforts were repeatedly repelled. The most powerful group in the empire, and the one most averse to change, were members of the Sultan's personal army. These were known as the Janissaries
The Janissaries were infantry units that formed the Ottoman sultan's household troops and bodyguards...

. They were first created from a tax, known as the devsirme. The devsirme was imposed on all Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

s living in Ottoman controlled territory. Every five years one in five Christian sons were given to the Sultan. Some entered the civil service, some went into politics, and a few managed to rise to the position of Grand Vizier. The majority of the boys, however, entered the army. They were trained to be master warriors supremely loyal to the Sultan, and became known as the Janissaries. They were strictly led by an ancient code of honour and were ready to sacrifice themselves for their Sultan at any time.

Over time, however, the Janissaries, with their great strength and close attachment to the Sultan, gained a great deal of power in the empire. With power came corruption, and during the 18th century the Janissary code of honour gradually disappeared. The Janissaries became rich through bribes and theft. They used their power to control the government, and do all that was possible to prevent changes to their traditional powers. By the 1820s they were no more than a group of heavily armed thugs rebelling at even minor military changes. The situation was desperate; the Ottoman army had fallen so far behind the rest of Europe that any aggressive power could take the capital.

In 1826 the Janissaries revolted against the Sultan's decree that forced them to wear western military uniforms. Rather than back down to the Janissary threat as all previous Sultans had, Mahmud II
Mahmud II
Mahmud II was the 30th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1808 until his death in 1839. He was born in the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, the son of Sultan Abdulhamid I...

 used his new artillery regiments against the Janissary barracks in Constantinople. The barracks was destroyed and all Janissaries trying to flee were killed. Outside the capital most of the Janissaries peacefully disbanded, but many of them were executed on charges of treason. With the removal of the Janissaries the path to military reform was now open, but after centuries of Janissary interference the Ottoman army could never fully recover.

To modernise the army and bring it up to European standards, outsiders were brought in. These outsiders were regarded with suspicion by the empire's elite. The senior members of the army and government still thought that they were back in the 17th century when the Ottoman army was more powerful than any other on Earth; however, signs of decline were already evident. Catherine the Great annexed the Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 and Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

 at the end of the 18th century, and the Sultan had no way to intervene. Bessarabia
Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

 was lost in 1812 after the Ottomans attempted to take advantage of Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

's war with Napoleon. The first losses to Russia, an enemy of the empire for centuries, were a great embarrassment, but they were not enough to motivate reform.

In the early part of the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire allied with France, and thus it was to the French that the Sultan turned for aid in rebuilding his military might. When they requested help from the Directory
French Directory
The Directory was a body of five Directors that held executive power in France following the Convention and preceding the Consulate...

, a young artillery officer named Napoleon Bonaparte was to be sent to Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. He did not go, for just days before he was to embark for the near east he proved himself useful to the directory by putting down a Parisian mob and was kept in France. It is interesting to think what a man of Napoleon's skill might have done with the Ottoman army.

In his place a parade of French officers were brought in, but none of them could do a great deal. One example of an advisor who achieved limited success was the Baron de Tott. He succeeded in having a new foundry
A foundry is a factory that produces metal castings. Metals are cast into shapes by melting them into a liquid, pouring the metal in a mold, and removing the mold material or casting after the metal has solidified as it cools. The most common metals processed are aluminum and cast iron...

 built to make artillery and he directed the construction of a new naval base. It was almost impossible for him to divert soldiers from the regular army into the new units. The new ships and guns that made it into service were too few to have much of an influence on the Ottoman military and de Tott returned home.

Criticism of the decline theories

The decline thesis has come under considerable criticism by Ottomanists in recent years. Attempts at identifying abstract theories rely on essentialising Muslim history in ahistorical ways, going against the considerable range of variation, contours and trends, in favour of implicit ideal types. The Ottomanist scholar Toledano states:
The main flaw of explanations based on the Ottoman decline is their all encompassing nature. With the growth in scope and sophistication of studies treating the history of the empire in the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain the uniform view of processes over such a large geographical expanse, during such a long period of time, and covering all aspects of human history – the political, the economic, the social, the cultural and others.

With explanations of a general decline thesis heavily contested amongst scholars this renders them doubtful. With such vastly varied accounts of the same phenomena, it questions the credibility of a decline thesis.

Historic revisionism

The Ottoman expansion came to an abrupt halt in the late 17th century, when Ottoman armies were routed at Vienna leading to discussions amongst Ottoman intellectual circles of a decline. In 1603, the English historian Richard Knolles described the Ottomans as "the present terror of the world" and by the mid-19th century, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia described it as "the sick man of Europe
Sick man of Europe
"Sick man of Europe" is a nickname that has been used to describe a European country experiencing a time of economic difficulty and/or impoverishment...

", a term by which it was to become stigmatised despite the same term being used for a number of European states (including Italy and Scotland). The financial problems of the Ottoman Empire were perceived to be at the heart of the growing disparity with the European powers, visible in territory, technology and warfare. Expanding into the Muslim world through occupations and intervention, they carved up the Ottoman Empire at the start of the 20th century, leaving the Muslim world dumbfounded.

Subsequent nationalist movements, writers and politicians wrote about the Ottoman presence in very hostile and negative terms, with many works being vacuous, based on suspect sources and heavily biased. Quataert states:
Given the nationalist logic of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century history writing, the Ottoman legacy has been difficult to assess and appreciate. The biases come from many sides. West and central European... old fears have persisted to the present day and arguably have been transformed into cultural prejudices... now being directed against the full membership of an Ottoman successor state, Turkey, into the European Union. Moreover, nationalist histories have dismissed the place of the multi-ethnic, multi-religious formation in historical evolution... In the more than thirty countries that now exist in territories once occupied by the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman past until recently has been largely ignored and/or considered in extremely negative terms.

Arabs and Turks in seeking a new identity and foundation for their states exhibited similar hostility, preferring to go back to the Pharaohs, Kings of Babylon and the Hittites of pre-Ottoman Anatolia. This hostility and often vilification, appears less to actual Ottoman policies and more to their state building processes. Doumani’s study of the Arab region of Ottoman Palestine notes,
...most Arab nationalists view the entire Ottoman era as a period of oppressive Turkish rule which stifled Arab culture and socioeconomic development and paved the way for European colonial control and the Zionist takeover of Palestine... The intellectual foundation for this shared image can be traced to the extensive literature published during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Westerners bent on "discovering," hence reclaiming, the Holy Land from what they believed was a stagnant and declining Ottoman Empire.

European economic history concentrated on trade around the Mediterranean, the Americas, India and South East Asia, ignoring the empire in between that was the centre of the known world throughout this period.

Ottoman history has been rewritten for political and cultural advantage and speculative theories rife with inconsistent research, ahistorical assumptions and embedded biases. Regarding the Ottoman Industrial Revolution, Edward Clark said,
Ottoman responses to this European economic challenge are relatively unknown, and even the extensive and costly Ottoman industrial efforts of the 1840s seemingly have been dismissed as the casual, if not comical games of disinterested bureaucrats... What were the nature and magnitude of these Ottoman responses? What were Ottoman objectives? What main factors contributed to their failures? What if any achievements resulted?

The complexity and multi-faceted nature of the Ottoman economy does not lend itself to the analyses that have been provided to date. Faroqhi cites earlier scholars (Gibbs and Bowen) who realised with the commencement of archival studies, details as well as major generalisations would need to be modified or even totally discarded. She cites errors present in secondary literature passed over by generations,

Some errors may be just amusing, such as the story that the heads of the Ottoman religious-cum-legal hierarchy, the seyhulislams, if executed, were ground to death in a gigantic mortar and pestle... Others are more serious and have much hampered research, such as the inclination to explain anything and everything by Ottoman decline.

Alternative theories

Jonathan Grant questioned an inexorable decline thesis by considering military technology, showing the Ottomans could reproduce the latest military technology (however it is disputed whether the help of foreign expertise was necessary or not from the 15th century onwards Kenneth Chase (2003)) maintaining this relative position through two technology diffusions until the 19th century. They failed to keep pace with technology from the industrial revolution becoming dependant on imported weapons.

İslamoğlu-İnan in her work on the peasants of Corum and Sivas takes an alternative view arguing an increase in population increased economic growth, cultivating more market-oriented crops as their numbers increased, rather than stunting it.

McCloskey argued that an increase in population should increase the volume of transactions and economic activity and lead to a decline in prices. (Comparatively, historians argue one of the factors of Britain’s industrial revolution was a population increase growing from 7.5 million to 18 million in the late 18th century.) Pamuk however highlights Morineau’s recent research with specie flows into Europe continuing to increase during the 17th century even after prices declined, casting doubts on the causality of inflation by bullion inflows.

Palairet and Pamuk argue domestic trade was more important to the empire, surpassing exports throughout the 19th century. Both Quataert and Palairet’s work suggest that in the second quarter of the 19th century there were impressive economic advances in the Ottoman Empire contradicting Wallerstein and Kasaba’s claim that "in the long run, the effects of incorporation of the Ottoman Empire into the world-economy proved to be catastrophic for manufacturing in the Ottoman realms as a whole."

Cause of demise

One of the distinguishing factors of the Ottoman Empire from other peripheries was that it was never colonised but was subject to inter-imperialist rivalry. The empire did have difficulty trying to protect and develop its nascent industries (which arguably contributed to its financial difficulties in the late 19th century), however this problem was no different to that faced by other nations at the time. Unable to develop financing models and techniques like the British and the Dutch, along with its inability to mobilise and equip reserves en masse like its European counterparts, this shortcoming contributed towards its military weakness and shrinking borders. With the defeat against the Russians in the mid-19th century and fighting on many fronts, it had to capitulate against Britain and allow an influx of zero-tariff goods along with an increased European military presence on its lands resulting in a weakened position in international relations. These capitulations prevented it from reorganising itself through its own finances having to rely on European finance on unfavourable terms. A number of subsequent financial crises did emerge towards the end of the 19th century that increased European involvement in the empire’s internal affairs, primarily in collecting taxes from securities pledged against debt. However, with foreign debt dropping from 242 million Turkish pounds in 1875 to 139 million in 1914 these events appear overstated in the literature and cannot be construed as causes or be considered part of a larger decline.

Disruption to the centrifugal forces in the socio-political environment had little impact on the economy over the long run. The balance of power between the central and provincial authorities saw the power of the provincial ruler fall rapidly from 1808 with the successful recentralisation reforms in the 1820s by Mahmud II.

The Ottomans did not seem to be considerably outpaced by the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 that developed in parallel nor any of its rivals. None developed uniform economies that outpaced the Ottomans in all areas – for instance, the British commercial strength developed around the textile industry with technological innovations being applied to other economic areas, such as coal, iron and steel. Through diplomacy and a strong navy, they were able to leverage their cheaply manufactured textiles to penetrate overseas markets achieving a host of economic objectives and benefits. A similar pattern of intensive use of technology with the limited resources of land and labour available to European countries allowed them to go through industrialisation and achieve rising levels of living.
In conclusion, it appears that although there was no industrial revolution in the empire, it did achieve and sustain improving levels of living to its end. Without making full use of its labour and land resources, the Ottomans were in a strong position for long-term growth. Once labour and land became fully utilised, they had room for further growth by applying the intensive technologies and techniques being made use of by the Europeans (whose land and labour were scarcer). Overall, the Ottoman Empire was growing and expanding at the beginning of the 20th century addressing a changing world, similar experiences and challenges faced by its contemporaries. Faroqhi and Quataert’s descriptions of the empire appear more appropriate; a series of calamities and changing world circumstances with the Ottoman Empire adopting to change rapidly but in relative terms not fast enough.

Those considering the late Ottoman period, 17th century onwards, seem better placed to argue a decline. However, there appears to be a tendency to assume a decline due to a relative shift in centre-provincial relations and problems the state faced. As Williams comments,
The UK floods of the summer of 2007 offer an interesting analogy. The river Thames consumed towns and villages around Oxford, not because they were in decline, sinking beneath the waves, but because the river was rising.

General overviews of Ottoman history can be made to cohere to a decline theory. However, when put to the test against detailed Ottoman archives, the decline thesis begins to unravel.
The most important of industries in the Empire was that of agriculture. Like the commercial and manufacturing sectors, it had its own internal dynamics whereby it was able to adapt to changes in trading conditions. Sometimes this would result in new centers, more often than not existing methods changing or new products developing to capture new markets and opportunities.

The historian Ira Lapidus argues the main challenge the Ottomans appeared to struggle with unsuccessfully, remaining a legacy across the modern Muslim world, was that of a socio-cultural political identity. It explains why the Ottoman society was unable to meet the challenges of leading a heterogeneous society in the 20th century. The European territories for the first time created a balance in the Muslim empire where non-Muslims were a majority – the socio-political identity of Turkic-Persian-Islam seemed unable to provide a cohesive and unitary identity that the entire population could accept and remain loyal.

The Ottomans with Britain, France and Russia dominated global politics in the 19th century. Like contemporary European states, had to form ever-changing alliances playing one power off against another preventing any one to be in a position to take on the empire. However, they suffered from the disadvantage of maintaining territorial integrity from nationalistic forces in the European territories. It was only after the First World War, with its strongest ally Germany defeated, Russia marginalised, the Austria-Hungary Empire in tatters, the stage became clear for Britain and France to divide its territories between themselves without the involvement of the other powers (as planned in secret agreements made during the war.)

Prior to this, a delicate balance between the powers was maintained, whereby no one of them was allowed to disrupt this balance in their favour.

See also

  • History of Turkey
    History of the Republic of Turkey
    The Republic of Turkey was created after the overthrow of Sultan Mehmet VI Vahdettin by the new Republican Parliament in 1922. This new regime delivered the coup de grâce to the Ottoman state which had been practically wiped away from the world stage following the First World War.-Single-party...

  • French colonial empires
    French colonial empires
    The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

  • German Empire
    German Empire
    The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

  • Italian Empire
    Italian Empire
    The Italian Empire was created after the Kingdom of Italy joined other European powers in establishing colonies overseas during the "scramble for Africa". Modern Italy as a unified state only existed from 1861. By this time France, Spain, Portugal, Britain, and the Netherlands, had already carved...

  • Russian Empire
    Russian Empire
    The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

  • Byzantine Empire
    Byzantine Empire
    The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

Further reading

  • Ahmad, Feroz. The Young Turks: The Committee of Union and Progress in Turkish Politics, 1908–1914, (1969).
  • Eissenstat, Howard. "History and Historiography: Politics and Memory in the Turkish Republic." Contemporary European History 2003 12(1): 93-105. Issn: 0960-7773 Fulltext: in Cambridge journals.
  • Finkel, Caroline. Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire (2006), standard scholarly survey excerpt and text search
  • Fromkin, David. A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East (2001) excerpt and text search
  • Göçek, Fatma Müge. Rise of the Bourgeoisie, Demise of Empire: Ottoman Westernization and Social Change. (1996). 220 pp.
  • Hale, William. Turkish Foreign Policy, 1774-2000. (2000). 375 pp.
  • Holt, P. M. Egypt and the Fertile Crescent, 1516–1922: A Political History. 1966.
  • Kayali, Hasan. Arabs and Young Turks: Ottomanism, Arabism, and Islamism in the Ottoman Empire, 1908-1918 (1997); complete text online
  • Kedourie, Sylvia. Turkey Before and After Atatürk: Internal and External Affairs (1989) 282pp; excerpts and text search
  • Ochsenwald, William, and Sydney Nettleton Fisher. The Middle East: A History (2003) excerpt and text search
  • Pamuk, Sevket. A Monetary History of the Ottoman Empire (1999). 276 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Quataert, Donald. The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922 (2005), standard scholarly survey excerpt and text search
  • Quataert, Donald. Social Disintegration and Popular Resistance in the Ottoman Empire, 1881–1908. (1983).
  • Shaw, Stanford J., and Ezel Kural Shaw. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Vol. 2, Reform, Revolution, and Republic: The Rise of Modern Turkey, 1808–1975. (1977). excerpt and text search
  • Somel, Selcuk Aksin. Historical Dictionary of the Ottoman Empire. (2003). 399 pp.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.