Honors College History 232
23 January 2013
Eighteenth Century Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire was a state founded by Turkish tribes under Osman Bey in 1299. Under the leadership of Mehmed II, this fledgling nation became an empire with the conquest of Constantinople in 1452 by Mehmed II. The Ottoman Empire continued in its imperial form until it became the Republic of Turkey in 1923. As an empire, it was the most powerful state in the world with 32 provinces during the seventeenth century. In the last half of the seventeenth century, the Ottoman Empire functioned under the rule of the Koprulu family, a notable family of imperial bureaucrats from Albania who overhauled the bureaucracy and instituted military reforms. After the fall of the last Koprulu rulers, Ahmed III began his reign in 1703. This section in Turkey’s history is often denoted as the beginning of the Tulip Era, which refers to the popularity of tulip cultivation in Istanbul during the eighteenth century Ottoman Empire. The tulip was used as a symbol of the Janissary corps and the conflicts brought by early modern consumer culture. Stagnation and later reform dominated the Ottoman Empire during the eighteenth century, which was due in part to a time of peace. During this period, the Russian expansion was a significant threat, which resulted in endless wars between them and the Ottoman Empire. By the late eighteenth century, a number of defeats motivated the Ottoman Empire to modernize in order to keep up with Western technology to avoid further defeats. Consequently, the government’s main focus was on the reformation of military, education, and technology. During the eighteenth century of the Ottoman Empire, the government was ruled under an Absolute Monarchy. An Absolute Monarchy is when a monarch, in the case of the Ottoman Empire the Sultan, had ultimate governing power over their country. The Sultan was chosen from a group of suitable heirs to the throne that were sent to the Palace School. The school would eliminate unfit candidates from the group and send the most suitable to the ruling elite for final elimination and selection. Once chosen, the Sultan’s main objective was to rule over the Military Administration and oversee the Civil Administration. The Civil Administration was run by local administrative units; much like local cities today in the United States. The Sultan also held the position of the Caliphate, which is the highest position in Islam and was believed to be the successor to Mohammad. In the Ottoman Empire, the State had more power than the Clergy, which meant the Sultan truly did have unlimited control over his people. Under the Sultan there was the Divan, a group of advisors that were made up of certain clergy and other advisors. Once such advisor was the Mother of the Sultan, with whom was given the title Valide Sultan. In the 1320’s a new position was created to help delegate the power and responsibility of the Sultan even further. The position was the Grand Vizier and had major independence from the Sultan. In the sixteenth century, the Sultan decided to withdraw from politics and the Grand Vizier became the Head of State. During the eighteenth century, there were six individual Sultans: Ahmed III, Mahmud I, Osman III, Mustafa III, Abdulhamid I, and Selim III. During this time there was a period of stagnation, or a period of peace after the Astro-Turkish-Russian War ended in 1739. The Janissary corps was a unique feature of the Ottoman Empire. Murad I created the elite group in 1383 as a way to counteract the power of Turkish nobles. The Janissary Corps formed the Sultan’s personal guards, independent of the regular army and owing its loyalty and allegiance to the Sultan. Its creation replaced forces that mostly consisted of tribal warriors whose loyalty were not always guaranteed. The Janissaries order was largely influenced by the Bektashi belief and created through the Devşirme system. Under the system, young Christian boys...
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