Ottoman Empire, the Sick Man of Europe

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40. The Ottoman Empire
Why was the ‘Ottoman Empire’ the ‘sick man of Europe’ at the end of the nineteenth century – and was this judgement justified?

Through an analysis of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the nineteenth century it can be seen that the country was immensely unstable due to a vast array of events. These events fall under social, political, religious and economic categories and range in time from as early as the sixteenth century to the later years of the nineteenth century. The social, economic and political instability which was evident by the late nineteenth century landed the Ottoman empire with the name the ‘sick man of Europe’. My essay will determine the events which contributed to the instability of the Empire and asses the impact they had on increasing it’s instability.

The Political structure of the empire since it’s thirteenth century establishment was that of a monarchy. The emperor was known as the ‘Sultan’. The first sign of weakness in this administrative structure was revealed after the period of 1566 to 1728 saw more than thirteen Sultans pass through positions of authority[1]. The system continued to deteriorate more rapidly as an abuse of power by provincial notable and the upper clergy were seen to be abusing their positions of power[2]. A proverb commonly used by Ottoman’s people in the nineteenth century was “the fish begins to stink at the head”. This highlights their discontent with the administrative system their belief that it will inevitably end to their own downfall.

The Tanzimat reforms of 1839 implemented extensive reformation to the country and aimed to modernize the country. Despite the progressive aims the quick changes of to government and society effectively contributed to it’s weakening. Social markers which had long existed in society were abolished much to the dissatisfaction of many who were proud of their trade or membership to elite class.

Ottoman Empire’s expansion ended and was followed by a...
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