Type of Government in England and the Ottoman Empire

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Comparing theories of government in England and the Ottoman empire.

In attempting to compare theories of Government we need to look at the type of government in place in both England1 and The Ottoman Empire2,3 we need to define the period for comparison. It would be good to use descriptions of the rise of each form of government by following a timeline to form the basis of this essay. This unfortunately can't be the case, other than time there is no like-for-like comparison. The Ottoman’s imperial or dynastic monarchy, with a realm, extending over many countries needs to be looked at as an empire with responsibilities, which are by their very nature, complicated by the cultures they cross. England’s feudal monarchy and its constitutional executive government was very much focussed on internal affairs, ongoing wars and skirmishes with traditional foe, France, is somewhat the opposite of the Ottoman4.

The rise of the Ottoman Empire, with sultan Osman I, from around 1299, was coincident with a series of opportunistic events. Important amongst these was a change in the expansionist Mongol empire in the East5. In the west was the collapsing Byzantine Empire, of which Turkey was or had been a part and desired to be free. In an interesting turn of events many aspects of Byzantine rule were incorporated by the Ottoman.

Famine and flood had affected Western Europe, including England. England and France were in and out of war during their first century and the 100 Year War the second century of their empire. The mid 14th century was the time of the Black Death where populations throughout the known world, particularly the Christian world, had been decimated. Add to these that the Ottoman lived for war6, probably the most influential element for successful expansion.

The warrior Ottoman Empire was also the longest dynastic monarchy since before Christ. Led by an absolute monarch, the sultan, to decree the laws of the realm the rule then divided into the administrative and military lines. This dynastic head at various times also took on various other names as well Sultan and titles including caliph. Caliph or Caliphate seems to have a closer connection to Muhammud and possibly made governing Arabs and other Islamic believers easier7.

The only significant time, in what was to become a 600 year history that the government wasn’t from this singular dynastic head was between 1402 and 1417 when the Ottoman Triumverate was in control.

By the beginning of the 16th century the Ottoman realm covered most of the Islamic world, and much of the known world at that time. Like the spread of Islam 600 to 800 years before them, the development of the Ottoman Empire was one gained through conquest and maintained through a form of discrete yet absolute rule.

There is a problem with maintaining rule over a conquered people. Continued oppression is counter-productive. If, however, the vanquished feel there is a benefit in the victor remaining ruler8 the ongoing relationship will be very productive. It is probable that the Ottoman’s use of the religion, both Islam and those the “non-faithful” (eg. Jews, Christians and Orthodox) to maintain their own religion is and example of providing the conquered a benefit they needed to prevent insurrection. The Ottoman had the Qur’an and Sharia law to do the much of this work for them.9

This connection to the Qur’an is important. So much in fact, that in 1517 the Islamic office of the caliphate10 was resurrected and used continuously from then till 1924 when the Ottoman Empire finally ended.

The Caliphate was a significantly different position to the spiritual leader, whose task has always been to guide, provide solace and inform the believers we need to remember that this government remained a theocratic hegemony throughout its history. Throughout the life of the empire the Sultan or Caliphate seems to have provided for a number of protections for the citizens of the empire....
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