A. Egypt and the Napoleonic Example, 1798–1840
1. 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
2. His generals had little hope of holding on to power and, in 1801,
agreed to withdraw. Muhammad Ali emerged as the victor in the ensuing
3. Muhammad Ali used many French practices in effort to build up the
new Egyptian state.
4. He established schools to train modern military officers and built
factories to supply his new army.
5. In the 1830s his son Ibrahim invaded Syria and started a similar
set of reforms there.
6. European military pressure forced Muhammad Ali to withdraw in 1841
to the present day borders of Egypt and Israel.
7. Muhammad Ali remained Egypt's ruler until 1849 and his family held
onto power until 1952.
B. Ottoman Reform and the European Model, 1807-1853
1. 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 of Janissaries, noblemen, and the ulama.
2. Tension between the Sultanate and the Janissaries sparked a
Janissary revolt in Serbia in 1805. Serbian peasants helped to defeat
the Janissary uprising and went on to make Serbia independent of the
3. 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.
4. The Greeks gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1829.
Britain, France, and Russia assisted the Greeks in their struggle for
independence and regarded the Greek victory as a triumph of European
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. The public rights and political participation granted during the
Tanzimat were explicitly restricted to men. The reforms decreased the
influence of women, while at the same time the development of a cash
economy and competitive labor market drove women from the work force.
C. The Crimean War and its Aftermath, 1853–1856
1. 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.
2. The Crimean War brought significant changes to all combatants. The
Russian government was further discredited and forced into making
further 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.
3. 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.
4. After the Crimean War the Ottoman Empire continued to establish
secular financial and commercial institutions on the European model.
These reforms contributed 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.
5. Problems associated with the reforms included the Ottoman state’s
dependence on foreign loans, a trade deficit, and inflation. In the
1860s and 1870s discussion of a law that would have permitted all men to
vote left Muslims worried that the Ottoman Empire was no longer a Muslim
society. This worry may have contributed to Muslim hostilities against
Christians in the Ottoman territories in Europe, Armenia, and the Middle
6. 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 a coup soon placed a more conservative ruler on the
throne; the Ottoman Empire thus continued its weakened existence under
the sponsorship of the Western powers until 1922.