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Ottoman History
Ottoman History

Can the BBC handle the awkward truth about the Ottoman Empire?

The fascinating history of the Ottoman Empire is the subject of a new BBC series fronted by Rageh Omaar. The title of the series tries to sneak in a rather contentious point as a given – Europe’s Muslim Emperors. Some mistake, surely? While large swathes of Europe did fall under Ottoman rule, for centuries this rule was deeply resented, and the powers of Europe, or at least most of them, did their best to expel the invader. Even if the Ottoman Turks may have ruled parts of Europe, their civilisation was not European, but Asiatic. As someone once said: “Turkey has always represented a different continent, in permanent contrast to Europe.” It would make sense to describe the Turkish Sultans not as European, but anti-European.

Islam in the Ottoman Empire

Islam in the Ottoman Empire; Islam was the official religion of the Ottoman Empire and became more important after two seminal events: the conquest of Constantinople and the conquest of Arab regions of the Middle East. The highest position in Islam, caliphate, was claimed by the sultan, after the defeat of the Mamluks which was established as Ottoman Caliphate. The Sultan was to be a devout Muslim and was given the literal authority of the Caliph. Additionally, Sunni clerics had tremendous influence over government and their authority was central to the regulation of the economy. Despite all this, the Sultan also had a right to decree, enforcing a code called Kanun (law) in Turkish. Additionally, there was a supreme clerical position called the Sheykhulislam ("Sheykh of Islam" in Arabic). Minorities, particularly Christians and Jews but also some others, were mandated to pay the jizya, the poll tax as mandated by traditional Islam.

Ottoman law

History of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was founded by Osman I. As sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople (today named Istanbul) in 1453, the state grew into a mighty empire. The Empire reached its apex under Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century when it stretched from the Persian Gulf in the east to Hungary in the northwest; and from Egypt in the south to the Caucasus in the north. The empire came to an end in the aftermath of its defeat by the Allies in World War I. The empire was dismantled by the Allies after the war ended in 1918.

Rise of the Ottoman Empire (1299–1453)

Ottoman Empire 4

The Ottoman Empire (/ˈɒtəmən/; Ottoman Turkish: دَوْلَتِ عَلِيّهٔ عُثمَانِیّه‎, Devlet-i ʿAlīye-i ʿOsmānīye; Modern Turkish: Osmanlı İmparatorluğu or Osmanlı Devleti), also known as the Turkish Empire,[9] Ottoman Turkey,[10][11] was an empire founded at the end of the thirteenth century in northwestern Anatolia by the Turkish[12] tribal leader Osman,[13] according to the Ottoman tradition said to have been descended from the Kayı tribe.[dn 4] After conquests in the Balkans by Murad I between 1362 and 1389, the Ottoman sultanate was transformed into a transcontinental empire and claimant to the caliphate. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.[15]

List of sultans of the Ottoman Empire

The sultans of the Ottoman Empire (Turkish: Osmanlı padişahları), made up solely of the members of the Ottoman dynasty(House of Osman), ruled over the transcontinental empire from its inception in 1299 to its dissolution in 1922. At its height, the Ottoman Empire spanned from Hungary in the north to Yemen in the south, and from Algeria in the west to Iraq in the east. Administered at first from the city of Bursa, the empire's capital was moved to Edirne in 1363 following its conquest by Murad I, and then to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) in 1453 following its conquest by Mehmed II.[1]

Ottoman Empire 3

The Ottoman Empire emerged circa 1300 with the establishment by the first Ottoman ruler, Osman, of a small principality bordering on Byzantine territory in western Anatolia. It reached its greatest extent in 1590, when the empire comprised central Hungary, the Balkan Peninsula, Anatolia, Mespotamia, Syria and Palestine, western Arabia, Egypt, and lands in the Caucasus and western Iran. In Europe, Transylvania, Walachia, Moldavia, and the Crimea were tributary principalities, while in North Africa, Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers were semiautonomous provinces. Between 1603 and 1606, the Ottomans lost the lands in Iran and the Caucasus that had been ceded to them in 1590. In 1669, however, they took control of Crete.

The Ottoman Empire 2

The Ottoman Empire was the one of the largest and longest lasting Empires in history.
It was an empire inspired and sustained by Islam, and Islamic institutions.
It replaced the Byzantine Empire as the major power in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Ottoman Empire reached its height under Suleiman the Magnificent (reigned 1520-66), when it expanded to cover the Balkans and Hungary, and reached the gates of Vienna.
The Empire began to decline after being defeated at the Battle of Lepanto (1571) and losing almost its entire navy. It declined further during the next centuries, and was effectively finished off by the First World War and the Balkan Wars.
One legacy of the Islamic Ottoman Empire is the robust secularism of modern Turkey.
At its peak it included:
• Turkey
• Egypt
• Greece
• Bulgaria
• Romania
• Macedonia
• Hungary
• Palestine
• Jordan
• Lebanon
• Syria
• Parts of Arabia
• Much of the coastal strip of North Africa
Why was the Empire successful?

The Ottoman Empire’s birth

The Ottoman Empire’s birth is properly dated in 1453, the year the Ottomans took Constantinople (the conquest). Prior to this, the Ottomans were a principality surviving in the fluctuating border regions of more powerful Islamic states and the Byzantines. The term “Ottoman” does not describe an ethnic or racial group. Instead it most properly applies to the final version of the evolving governing class of the Oguz Turks, a nomadic people whose origins are in Central Asia. As this branch of the Turkish family fled from Mongol pressure in Central Asia to the Caucuses and Asia Minor, it adopted Islam and learned statecraft from the predecessor Islamic groups and Byzantium, the leading bureaucratic state of the West.

Ottoman Empire

Called by the Turks Osmanlıs, after the name of the founder of the dynasty Osman I (Ar., ʿUthmān), the Ottomans were Oghuz (Tk., Oğuz) Turks who came out of Central Asia and created a vast state that ultimately encompassed all of southeastern Europe up to the northern frontiers of Hungary, Anatolia, and the Middle East up to the borders of Iran as well as the Mediterranean coast of North Africa almost to the Atlantic Ocean. As a multiethnic, multireligious, and multicultural entity, the Ottoman Empire was the last of the great Islamic empires, which emerged in the later Middle Ages and continued its existence until the early twentieth century.

Conquest, 1300–1600.

Ottoman Empire

By the 16th century, the vast empire of the Ottomans had reached the top of its power. The lands under Ottoman rule stretched from the heart of Central Europe to the deserts of Arabia. In nearly every respect, the Ottoman Empire was strong and well organized. As such, it comes as no surprise that the people under Ottoman rule were organized in a neat power stricter as well. From the royal Sultan, to the villagers in the Rayyah class, the people of the Empire each had a unique position in Ottoman society.

At the very top of the pyramidal societal structure were the Sultan, absolute commander of all, and executor of decisions concerning politics and state wealth. A step below the Sultan were a small group of wealthy, higher leaders, who were given a special status because they were basically 1` the Sultan’s “slaves”.

Islam and the Ottoman Empire

If you read many Western histories of the Ottoman Empire, you may not even learn that the Ottomans were a Muslim empire. They are often seen as a typical European multi-cultural empire whose only purpose in existence was to promote its own interests. The truth is far from this, however. Throughout its history from the 1300s to the early 1900s, the Ottoman Empire was a strongly Muslim state at its core. Islamic law and ideas formed the basis of society, law, and government. Ottoman sultans saw themselves as the protectors of the Muslim world. With this emphasis on Islam, however, protection for other religions in the empire was ensured in ways that would take Christian Europe centuries to match.

The Ghazis

State organisation of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire developed over the centuries a complex organization of government with the Sultan as the supreme ruler of a centralized government that had an effective control of its provinces, officials and inhabitants. Wealth and rank could be inherited but were just as often earned. Positions were perceived as titles such as viziers and aghas. Military service was a key to advancement in the hierarchy.

The Ottoman state

The Ottomans inherited a rich mixture of political traditions from vastly disparate ethnic groups: Turks, Persians, Mongols, Mesopotamian and, of course, Islam. The Ottoman state, like the Turkish, Mongol, and Mesopotamian states rested on a principle of absolute authority in the monarch. The nature of Ottoman autocracy, however, is greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted in the West, particularly in world history textbooks.

Relations between Turkey and the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom (UK) was one of the first countries with which the Ottoman Empire established regular diplomatic relations. The first Ambassador appointed by the UK to the Ottoman Empire, William Harborne, assumed his duties in Istanbul in 1583 and Yusuf Agah Efendi appointed as the Ottoman Ambassador to London in 1793.

The two countries had a history, marked with periods of friendly relations as well as periods of confrontation and war in various alliances, prior to the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.

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