Modernization of the Ottoman Empire

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The Ottoman Empire was the longest-lasting dynasty in recorded human history. It was founded by semi-nomadic tribes in the early 14th century, and lasted until the early 20th century. This time period saw great change and transformation in the world from a political, economic, and even social point of view, mainly via the arrival of modernity in the 18th and 19th centuries.

A common trope in the past was that the Ottomans fell behind and became a relic as time went on, entering a period of terminal decline in the second half of their rule. This has fallen out of favor, as new research has shown that the Ottomans underwent great transformation themselves as the world changed. They managed to completely change core institutions in the empire from the military, the bureaucracy, the law and courts, the education system and more.

Another belief was that as the Ottomans changed and modernized, they also secularized. This has also been shown to be false by the evidence, as the Ottomans continued to remain "Islamic" and strove hard to maintain their Islamic character and values even as they transformed and modernized.

The Tanzimat

Lots of pressure to reform after the loss of Greece, plus Muhammad Ali Pasha's rebellion showing the Ottoman state's weakness.

The military

Abolishing the Janissaries.

The education system

Creating a mass public education system.

Social reforms

Abolishing the jizya, equal rights for religious minorities, trying to reduce slavery.

Transportation: connecting the empire

Berlin-Baghdad railway, Hejaz railway.

See also

Further reading

  • Ahmet Seyhun, "Islamist Thinkers in the Late Ottoman Empire and Early Turkish Republic" (2014)
  • Benjamin Fortna, "Imperial Classroom: Islam, the State, and Education in the Late Ottoman Empire" (2002).
  • Caroline Finkel, "Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire" (2007). Covers all of Ottoman history at a high level but the last few chapters cover the later years.
  • Carter Findley, "Turkey, Islam, Nationalism, and Modernity" (2010). Discusses the late Ottoman and early Turkish period.
  • Christine Isom-Verhaaren (Editor) and Kent F. Schull (Editor), "Living in the Ottoman Realm: Empire and Identity, 13th to 20th Centuries" (2016). Part IV covers the arrival of modernity.
  • Edward Erickson, "Ordered to Die: A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War" (2001)
  • M. Şükrü Hanioğlu, "A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire" (2010)
  • Pankaj Mishra, "From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia" (2012). The beginning focuses on Napoleon's invasion of Egypt (nominally an Ottoman province) and how it heralded the arrival of modernity in the Middle East.
  • Selim Deringil, "The Well-protected Domains: Ideology and the Legitimation of Power in the Ottoman Empire 1876-1909" (2001)

Also: Late Ottoman Reading List