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The Ottoman Empire in the Nineteen and Twentieth Centuries

2018 Lecture slides - powerpoint.

The modern European colonial empires that this module focuses on were a distinctive form of empire that was quite different to the large, land-based, pre-modern empires that came before them, such as the Ottoman Empire. Modern colonial empires were predicated on a fundamental ethnic distinction between the colonialists and the colonized populations, with the ingrained assumption of the intellectual and moral superiority of the former, which qualified them for far greater political rights. The early modern Ottoman Empire was different. Rather than excluding, its ruling class absorbed members of all the empire’s ethnic groups as well as foreigners; although non- Muslims had to convert to attain most of the more senior positions. But in the nineteenth century, as the Ottomans came under increasing military and economic pressure from the European imperial powers, it implemented modernizing reforms that were often based on European models. This class explores this question, from the perspective of both administrative institutions and the attitudes of the Ottoman ruling class towards their subject peoples.


Seminar Questions:

  1. What factors led to the Tanzimat?
  2. What were the central themes of the Tanzimat reforms?
  3. What does Makdisi mean by ‘Ottoman Orientalism’?
  4. Did the Ottoman Empire become a modern colonial empire during

the 19th century?



Carter Vaugh Findlay, “The Tanzimat,” Cambridge History of Turkey, vol. 4: Turkey in the Modern World, 9-37.

Ussama Makdisi, “Ottoman Orientalism,” American Historical Review, 107 (2002), 768-96.


Further readings:

Selim Deringil, The Well-Protected Domains: Ideology and the Legitimation of Power in the Ottoman Empire, 1876-1909 (London: IB Tauris, 1998).

Carter Vaughn Findlay, Bureaucratic Reform in the Ottoman Empire: The Sublime Porte, 1789-1922 (Princeton University Press, 1980).

James Gelvin, The Modern Middle East: A History (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Şükrü Hanioğlu, A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).

Resat Kasaba (ed.), Cambridge History of Turkey, vol. 4: Turkey in the Modern World (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Şerif Mardin, The Genesis of Young Ottoman Thought: A Study in the Modernization of Turkish Political Ideas (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000).

Christine Philliou, Biography of an Empire: Governing Ottomans in an Age of Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).

Edward Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin, 2003).