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The Ottoman Empire > Egypt and the Napoleonic Example

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I0. The Ottoman Empire

A0. Egypt and the Napoleonic Example

10. In 1798, Napoleon invaded Egypt and defeated the Mamluk forces he encountered there. Fifteen months later, after a series of military defeats, Napoleon returned to France, seized power, and made himself emperor.

20. His generals had little hope of holding on to power and, in 1801, agreed to withdraw. Muhammad Ali, the commander of a military detachment sent by the Ottoman sultan to restore imperial control, emerged as the victor in the ensuing power struggle.

30. Muhammad Ali used many French practices in an effort to build up the new Egyptian state.

40. He established schools to train modern military officers and built factories to supply his new army.

50. In the 1830s, his son Ibrahim invaded Syria and started a similar set of reforms there.

60. European military pressure forced Muhammad Ali to withdraw to the present-day borders of Egypt and Israel.

70. Muhammad Ali remained Egypt’s ruler until 1849, and his family held onto power until 1952.

B0. Ottoman Reform and the European Model, 1807–1853

10. At the end of the eighteenth century, Sultan Selim III introduced reforms to strengthen the military and the central government and to standardize taxation and land tenure. These reforms aroused the opposition especially of Janissaries and the ulama.

20. Tension between the Sultanate and the Janissaries sparked a Janissary revolt in Serbia in 1805. Serbian peasants helped to defeat the Janissary uprising, but went on to make Serbia independent of the Ottoman Empire.

30. Selim suspended his reform program in 1806, too late to prevent a massive military uprising in Istanbul in which Selim was captured and executed before reform forces could retake the capital.

40. The Greeks gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830. Britain, France, and Russia assisted the Greeks in their struggle for independence and regarded the Greek victory as a triumph of European civilization.

50. Sultan Mahmud II believed that the loss of Greece indicated a profound weakness in Ottoman military and financial organization. Mahmud used popular outrage over the loss of Greece to justify a series of reforms that included the creation of a new army corps, elimination of the Janissaries, and reduction of the political power of the religious elite. Mahmud’s secularizing reform program was further articulated in the Tanzimat (restructuring) reforms initiated by his successor Abdul Mejid in 1839.

60. Military cadets were sent to France and Germany for training, and reform of Ottoman military education became the model for general educational reforms in which foreign subjects were taught, foreign instructors were employed, and French became the preferred language in all advanced scientific and professional training.

70. Educational reform stimulated growth of the wealth and influence of urban elites. The reforms also brought about unexpected cultural and social effects that ranged from the introduction of European clothing styles to the equal access to the courts for all male subjects, to equalization of taxation.

80. The public rights and political participation granted during the Tanzimat were explicitly restricted to men. The reforms reduced the legal position of women, especially regarding their rights to hold property while at the same time, the development of a cash economy and competitive labor market drove women from the work force.

C0. The Crimean War and Its Aftermath

10. Russia’s southward expansion at the expense of the Ottoman Empire led to the Crimean War. An alliance of Britain, France, and the Ottoman Empire defeated Russia and thus blocked Russian expansion into Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

20. The Crimean War brought significant changes to all combatants. The Russian government was further discredited and forced into making additional reforms, Britain and France carried out extensive propaganda campaigns that emphasized their roles in the war, and the French press promoted a sense of unity between Turkish and French society.

30. The Crimean War marked the transition from traditional to modern warfare. The percussion caps and breech-loading rifles that were used in the Crimean War were the beginning of a series of subsequent changes in military technology that included the invention of machine guns, the use of railways to transfer weapons and men, and trench warfare.

40. After the Crimean War, the Ottoman Empire continued to establish secular financial and commercial institutions on the European model. These reforms contributed to rising trade, and thus to a shift of population from rural to urban areas and the development of professional and wage laborer classes, but they did not solve the regime’s fiscal problems. By 1856 the Ottoman state was hugely dependent on foreign loans.

50. The decline of Ottoman power and wealth inspired a group of educated urban men known as the Young Ottomans to band together to work for constitutionalism, liberal reform, and the creation of a Turkish national state in place of the Ottoman Empire. A constitution was granted in 1876, but renewed hostilities with Russia meant that it was suspended within a year.

II0. The Russian Empire

A0. Russia and Europe

10. In 1700, only three percent of the Russian population lived in cities, and Russia was slow to acquire a modern infrastructure and modern forms of transportation.

20. While Russia aspired to Western-style economic development, fear of political change prevented real progress.

30. Nonetheless, Russia had more in common with the other European nations than did the Ottoman Empire.

40. Slavophiles and Westernizers debated the proper course for Russian development.

50. The diplomatic inclusion of Russia among the great powers of Europe was countered by a powerful sense of Russophobia in the west.

B0. Russia and Asia

10. By the end of the eighteenth century, the Russian Empire had reached the Pacific Ocean and the borders of China. In the nineteenth century, Russian expansion continued to the south, bringing Russia into conflict with China, Japan, Iran, and the Ottoman Empire.

20. Afghanistan ultimately served as a buffer between Russian interests in Central Asia and British interests in India and South Asia.

C0. Cultural Trends

10. Russia had had cultural contact with Europe since the late seventeenth century.

20. The reforms of Alexander I promised more on paper than they delivered in practice.

30. Opposition to reform came from wealthy families who feared reform would bring about imperial despotism, a fear that was realized during the reign of Nicholas I.

40. The Decemberist revolt was carried out by a group of reform-minded military officers upon the death of Alexander I. Their defeat amounted to the defeat of reform for the next three decades.

50. Heavy penalties were imposed on Russia in the treaty that ended the Crimean War. The new tsar, Alexander II, was called upon to institute major reforms.

60. Under Alexander II, reforms and cultural trends begun under his grandfather were encouraged and expanded. Notably, he abolished serfdom in Russia in 1861.

70. The nineteenth century saw numerous Russian scholarly and scientific achievements, as well as the emergence of significant Russian writers and thinkers.

III0. The Qing Empire

A0. Economic and Social Disorder

10. When the Qing conquered China in the 1600s, they restored peace and stability and promoted the recovery and expansion of the agricultural economy, thus laying the foundation for the doubling of the Chinese population between 1650 and 1800. By 1800, population pressure was causing environmental damage and contributing to an increasing number of itinerant farmhands, laborers, and merchants.

20. There were numerous sources of discontent in Qing China. Various minority peoples had been driven off their land, and many people regarded the government as being weak, corrupt, and perhaps in collusion with the foreign merchants and missionaries in Canton and Macao. Discontent was manifest in a series of internal rebellions in the nineteenth century, beginning with the White Lotus rebellion (1794–1804).

B0. The Opium War and Its Aftermath, 1839–1850

10. Believing the Europeans to be a remote and relatively unimportant people, the Qing did not at first pay much attention to trade issues or to the growth in the opium trade. In 1839, when the Qing government realized the harm being done by the opium trade, they decided to ban the use and import of opium and sent a high-ranking official to Canton to deal with the matter.

20. The attempt to ban the opium trade led to the Opium War (1839–1842), in which the better-armed British naval and ground forces defeated the Qing, exposing China’s real military weaknesses, and forced them to sign the Treaty of Nanking. The Treaty of Nanking and subsequent treaties signed between the Qing and the various Western powers gave Westerners special privileges and resulted in the colonization of small pockets of Qing territory.

C0. The Taiping Rebellion, 1850–1864

10. The Taiping Rebellion broke out in Guangxi province, where poor farmland, endemic poverty, and economic distress were complicated by ethnic divisions that relegated the minority Hakka people to the lowliest trades.

20. The founder of the Taiping movement was Hong Xiuquan, a man of Hakka background who became familiar with the teachings of Christian missionaries in Canton. Hong declared himself to be the younger brother of Jesus and founded a religious group (the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace or Taiping movement) to which he recruited followers from among the Hakka people.

30. The Taiping forces defeated imperial troops in Guangxi, recruited (or forced) villagers into their segregated male and female battalions and work teams, and moved toward eastern and northern China. In 1853, the Taiping forces captured Nanjing and made it the capital of their Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace.

40. The Qing were finally able to defeat the Taiping with help from military forces organized by provincial governors like Zeng Guofan and with the assistance of British and French forces.

50. The Taiping Rebellion was one of the world’s bloodiest civil wars and the greatest armed conflict before the twentieth century. The results of the Taiping Rebellion included 20 to 30 million deaths, depopulation and destruction of rich agricultural lands in central and eastern China, and suffering and destruction in the cities and cultural centers of eastern China.

D0. Decentralization at the End of the Qing Empire, 1864–1875

10. After the 1850s, the expenses of wars and the burden of indemnities payable to Western governments made it impossible for the Qing to get out of debt. With the Qing government so deeply in their debt, Britain, France and the United States became active participants in the fiscal and economic recovery efforts that followed the Taiping Rebellion.

20. The real work of recovery was managed by provincial governors like Zeng Guofan, who looked to the United States as his model and worked to restore agriculture, reform the military, and industrialize armaments manufacture. The reform programs were supported by a coalition of Qing aristocrats, including the Empress Dowager Cixi, but they were unable to prevent the Qing Empire from disintegrating into a number of large regions in which provincial governors exercised the only real authority.

IV0. Conclusion

1. All of these empires faced similar challenges, like the maintenance of political order and revenue collection, while simultaneously reckoning with problems caused by population growth and internal discontent.

20. Subjects of the Ottoman, Russian, and Qing Empires did not consider European economic pressure a challenge during the first half of the nineteenth century.

By the 1870s, however, European challenges to the empires had become widely realized—for the Ottoman and Russian Empires during the Crimean War, and for the Qing Empire during the Opium War.

30. Although historians view economic pressure as the force that weakened the empires, rulers of the Ottoman, Russian, and Qing Empires themselves considered their greatest challenge to be the military superiority of the Europeans.

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