The Decline of the Ottoman Empire The decline of the Ottoman Turks Empire despite the interventions to save it has always attracted the attention of historians. The decline which started in the second half of the 19th century is believed to have been as a result of conflicting political and social aspect in the empire as well as the economic situation of the empire. This led to the dismissal of the ottoman rulers by the Europeans as competent rulers who could lead the empire to modernization.
The empire was faced with rebellions from the people, corruption of the administrators, economic difficulties and military deterioration, and was as a result called the sick man of Europe. Although there are a few recorded primary sources of data that can be used to explain the causes of the declining Ottoman Empire, historians have suggested that political, economic and social factors led to the decline.
The political changes that took place in the leadership of the empire where intelligent and able dynasty of rulers was replaced by incompetent and misfit political and religious leaders led to the collapse of the government apparatus in the empire.
The political and religious institutions became inefficient and lost their integrity. The most striking effect of the government collapse was the declining military power of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman army lost the morale as well as courage which resulted into series of defeats.
Since the 16th century, the army had become weak and the expansion of the empire was limited by Persian Empire and the Portuguese to the east and the Russian on the other side. The deteriorating military could not confront the armies of these monarchies which used unfamiliar techniques as opposed to the tradition Muslim war against the infidels (Lewis, p 112). As opposed to the early political development in the Ottoman Empire, the change of leadership resulted into conservatism in the 19th century which led to stagnation as the rest of the European monarchies were advancing rapidly in terms of military, agriculture and economy.
The incompetent and weak rulers led to poor leadership, corruption, unhealthy bureaucracies and in the long run decline in the empire. Economic factors also played a major role in the decline of the empire. Initially, the empire benefited from the strategic location where merchant ships from other parts of Europe in the Red Sea ports. However, the situation changed when new economic powers, the Dutch and British emerged in the seventeen century. The change of trade routes to Asia as a result was a big blow to the economy of the empire.
The increased voyages by the Europeans to discover more lands and trade route impacted on the empire negatively. The monetary systems were negatively affected by the low supply of precious metals. The increased supply of precious metals in Europe from the New World had devastating effect on the empire which was ruled by Sultans with limited financial knowledge. The economic crisis as a result of the increased supply of gold and silver from the newly discovered lands in America and Africa and technical backwardness led to the empire decline.
The economic problem was made worse by the change in the agrarian systems which resulted in declining agricultural productivity (Lewis, p 120). The empire lacked behind in terms of technology where they were kicked out of the market by the fast developing European nations in the production of textile and importation of species from Asia. The incompetent leaders fell back to their conservative Islamic beliefs and lost the control of the empire periphery by the end of the 19th century (Johnson, p 2). The rebellions that faced the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century changed the military orientation of the empire.
Although there were attempts by Sultan Selim to revive the weak military, the Ottoman military was unable to resist the attack by the Egyptians. The attempt by the nationalist sultan to modernize the military to fit the western style was faced with opposition from the conservative Islam clergy which led to the Balkan uprisings. One of the major reasons that caused the fall of the empire is conservativism as opposed to nationalism (Jaschke, p 12). While the then flourishing European nations had embraced the idea of a nation state, the Balkans had no idea of its benefit.
The resulting uprisings as the Serbs revolted against the mistreatment by the traditional military and political class and fought for their autonomy in the early 19th century, the empire became weak as other European societies developed. This was followed by the defeat by the Egyptians and the Russian (Johnson, p 3). Towards the mid 19th century, the main cause of the problem had already been revealed and mechanisms were put in place by the new rulers to save the empire. The internally developed social, political and military changes which were imported from the other European countries by default led to the establishment of the New Ottomans.
However, interventions were too late and the new empire depended on the support of European powers (Johnson, p 4). Work Cited Jaschke, Gotthard: “The Moral Decline of the Ottoman Dynasty” Die Welt des Islams, New Series, Vol. 4, Issue 1 (1955), pp. 10-14 Johnson, Robert: “The decline of the Ottoman Empire, c. 1798-1913: Robert Johnson puts the decline of a once-great Empire into an international context. (The Unpredictable Past)”, History Review, (2005) Lewis, Bernard: Some Reflections on the Decline of the Ottoman Empire, Studia Islamica, No. 9 (1958), pp. 111-127
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