Reforms of the Empire

 1789 - 1922


Selim II (1789–1807)


Ottoman military reform efforts begin with Selim III (1789–1807) who made the first major attempts to modernize the army along European lines with foreign experts. These new reforms were called the Nizam-i-Cedid or New Order, but they were implimented too fast for the conservative forces .These efforts, however, were hampered by reactionary movements, partly from the religious leadership, but primarily from the Janissary corps, who had become anarchic and ineffectual. Jealous of their privileges and firmly opposed to change, they created a Janissary revolt , which led to the death of Selim in 1808, and the Janissary placed Selim's  nephew Mustafa on the throne, as Mustafa IV(1807-08) .


MahmudII   (r.1808-39)


Mustafa's reign was brief , Selim's efforts cost him his throne and his life but were resolved in spectacular and bloody fashion by his successor, the dynamic Mahmud II (r.1808-09) , who massacred the Janissary corps in 1826 in the Auspicious Incident and abolished the order .His reign also marked the first breakaway from the Ottoman Empire, with Greece gaining its independence following a rebellion that started in 1821. In 1827 the combined British, French and Russian navies defeated the Ottoman Navy at the Battle of Navarino; in the aftermath, the Ottoman Empire was forced to recognize Greece with the Treaty of Constantinople in July 1832.



The Battle of Navarino, 1827, A combined Ottoman and Egyptian armada was destroyed by a combined British, French and Russian naval force


This event, together with the occupation of the Ottoman province of Algeria by France in 1830, marked the beginning of the gradual break-up of the Ottoman Empire.



 Movie of the Battle of Navarino

Revolt in Egypt


In 1805, Mohammed Ali, an Albanian soldier in the Ottoman army, emerged as the area's strongman and became the sultan's viceroy or khedive . In 1818, the Sultan sent Ali's son Ibrahim, to retake Arabia , which had be conquered by Bedouin warriors, the ancestors of today's royal Saudi family .The Sultan asked Ali to sent a fleet and troops to retake Greece, which was in rebellion. This fleet was destroyed in the battle of Navarino in 1827 .Growing irrated by the lack of respect shown him by the sultan, in 1830 he invaded and conquered Syria in the first Turko-Egyptian War (1832-3). At the Battle of Konya, the Ottoman forces were defeated and Instabul laid open to Ali's forces. This possibility so alarmed Mahmud II that he accepted Russia's offer of military aid, much to the dismay of the British and French governments. From this position, Russia brokered a negotiated solution in 1833 known as the Convention of Kutahya. The terms of the peace were that Ali would withdraw his forces from Anatolia and receive the territories of Crete (then known as Candia) and the Hijaz as compensation, and Ibrahim Pasha would be appointed Wali of Syria.


In 1839, Ali again attacked the Ottomans and defeated them in a major battle, leaving Instanbul open.At this point, the European powers, alarmed at the idea of the Ottoman government collapsing, forced Ali to withdraw to Egypt in return for the sultan recognizing Ali as a separate and hereditary ruler of Egypt. In 1869, Ali's grandson, Ismail, opened the Suez Canal. But within a few years, the country was seriously in debt, and England, which was involved in a large part already in Egyptain affairs, took over the country .


Mahmud II dealt effectively with the military fiefs, the "Timar"s and the "Ziamet"s. These had been instituted to furnish the old effective military force, but had long ceased to serve this purpose. By attaching them to the public domains, Mahmud II materially strengthened the resources of the state, and put an end to a host of corruptions. Following the loss of the Ottoman Vilayet of Greece after the Battle of Navarino against the combined British-French-Russian fleets in 1827, Mahmud II gave top priority to rebuilding a strong Ottoman naval force.


Changes in attire was also mandated at this time, turbans were to be replaced by the fez and all had to wear western dress except clerics .


Abdulmecid I (r1839-61)


Mahud's son came to the throne in 1839 and proclaimed the Tanizmat or Reorganization. Some of the Sultan's law making authority was given to advizers and equal treatment of Muslims and non Muslims in the courts. Newspapers were founded and secular schools were opened .There was great foreign economic penetration of the empire at this time, as the craftsmen of the empire could not compete with cheaper factory made goods .


Abdulmecid  built the European Dolmabahce to replace the Topkapi Palace the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire


It seemed that the Ottoman empire might be carved up by the colonial powers, but France and England decided it was best to prop up the'sick man' to counter Russian expansion and keep them from getting the warm water port of Istanbul. Thus, the Ottoman empire found itself allied with England and France in the Crimean war from 1853-56,which began as a dispute between Russia and France as to which country would be the christian protector of the Holy Land . The war ended with little territorial change. After the war, the Tsar and the Sultan agreed not to establish any naval or military arsenal on the Black Sea coast. In the 1870s, after Napoleon III was deposed and the French were too weak , Russia denounced the Black Sea clauses of the treaty agreed to in 1856. As Great Britain alone could not enforce the clauses, Russia once again established a fleet in the Black Sea.



Abdülaziz   1861-76


Abdülaziz was the son of Mahmud II  , continued the Tanzimat reforms but  ruled in a more despotic manner than his father .This led to a reaction from the Society of Young Ottomans or Young Turks ( from this, The term has come to refer to a young ambitious, impatient group challenging an older, established leadership within an organization, political party or government )  The sultan's lavish expenditures for the Ottoman Navy and the new palaces which he built, and the mounting public debt had also heightened public discontent.

Ottoman sailors training on the Osmaniye

There was also an economic crash and a revolt in the Balkans that was brutally put down .Abdülaziz was deposed by the Young Ottomans on May 30, 1876; his death a few days later was attributed to suicide. He was succeeded by Murad V, who only reigned for 93 days but was deposed for after having a nervous breakdown.The next heir apparent was Abdul Hamid, who was offered the throne on condition that he accept Young Turks as advisers and a constitution.

The Young Turks


 The Young Turks revolt


Abdul Hamid II  1876-1909

The history of modern Turkey begins in 1876 when Sultan Abdul Hamid (1876-1909) granted the empire a constitution. It was annulled the following year and he moved to forestall a government of Young Turk  ministers.

Payitaht Abdulhamid - Season 1 Episode 1 (English Subtitles)

Payitaht Abdulhamid takes us back in time to the fight for the existence of the Ottoman Empire. The story depicts the life of Sultan Abdulhamid Han who ascended the throne in 1876 and remained on the post for 33 years. It also follows the events that took place in the Ottoman State and around the world during the time of the “Almighty Sultan”.


Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8 


The Ottoman Empire lost territory to Russia in the numerous Russo-Turkish Wars. Nicholas I of Russia (1796-1856) is attributed to the famous quote saying the Ottoman Empire was ' the sick man of Europe.'



 The Russo-Turkish War, 1877-8

The Russians attacked on two fronts in 1877 in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8. At the beginning of the war, the outcome was far from obvious. The Russians could send into the Balkans a larger army: about 300,000 The Ottomans had about 200,000 troops on the Balkan peninsula, of which about 100,000 were assigned to fortified garrisons, leaving about 100,000 for the army of operation. The Ottomans had the advantage of being fortified, complete command of the Black Sea, and patrol boats along the Danube river. They also possessed superior arms, including new British and American-made rifles and German-made artillery.. The war went badly for the Ottomans due to poor planning and lack of vigor .In the following treaty of San Stefano and the 1878 Conference of Berlin, Romania, Montenegro and Serbia were granted independence, Thessaly was given to Greece, the Kars and Ardahan areas to russia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina were occuppied by Austria .


Abdul Hamid was incensed by the criticism of the new parliament during the war and in 1878 dissolved the it and set up a police state, with a huge number of spies and press censorship. The new telegraph network greatly aided the spy network .After the disastrous wars, Addul epoused Islam as a unifying force and emphasized the sultan's role as the caliph .The Armenians began to show nationalist desires and in the pogroms of 1895-6 nearly 150,000 Armenians were killed .In 1897, there was war with greece and a revolt on Crete. even thought the Prussian trainded army defeated Greece, it was forced to give Crete independence .


A new train station


Abdul presided over widespread moderization, such as a German built rail system.


On July 28, 1908, the army in Macedonia demanded by telegraph that Abdul restore the 1876 constitution or face revolt and and on July 24, he agreed and there was widespread rejoicing in the streets . An anti western-Young Turk revolt by religious leaders, army offices and politicans broke out in 1909, and Abdul came out in their support .The revolt was crushed and Sultan Abdul Hamid II was dethroned and banished and a government under the Young Turks was established . His younger brother Mehmed V assumed the throne .However, there was little real change and the Young Turks focused on a policy of Turkification. In the elections following the coup, the Young Turks Committee for Union and Progress party gained a majority .


Mehmed V 


His reign began on April 27, 1909 but he had no real political power. The actual decisions were made by various members of the Ottoman government .Mehmed V died on July 3, 1918 at the age of 73, only four months before the end of World War I. Thus, he did not live to see the downfall of the Ottoman Empire.


 Italian army in  Triploi


The empire suffered heavy losses as a result of the Italo-Turkish War of 1912-13  in which the empire the lost provinces of  Tripolitania, Fezzan, Cyrenaica. (Libya), Rhodes and the Dodecanese archipelago near Anatolia.. This war saw one of the first uses of the airplane in warfare



 The Italo Turkish War Of 1911-12

TURKISH ITALIAN WAR - THE INVASION OF TRIPOLI Main Title   Imperial War Museums An Italian amphibious landing near the town of Tripoli in the Ottoman province of Tripolitania, Turkish-Italian War, 1911. Italian battleships escort their transports towards Tripoli. The battleships Francesco Fernuccio and Re Umberto form part of the escort. View from the shore of the Italian fleet, out at sea, bombarding shore positions. Lighters tow Italian soldiers in boats ashore for an unopposed landing. Other soldiers (in tropical kit) are landed on a wooden mole. A barge brings horses ashore. As Arabs watch, the Italians start to march off the beach. They have a tented camp inland from the town where the men rest and prepare a meal.

Balkan League troops storming a Turkish fortress in the Balkan War



 Balkan War documentary

 The Balkan peoples, seeing how weak the empire had become, revolted. In 1912, in what is known as the First Balkan War (1912-13) the Balkan League of Serbian, Bulgarian, Greek and Montenegrin forces declared war on the Ottoman Empire to take  Ottoman-held Macedonia, Albania and most of Thrace and then fell out over the division of the spoils. A coup attempt led to a military junta led by Enver Pasha, Talat Pasha and Cemal Pasha. As a result of this war the empire lost all its European possessions except Eastern Thrace , which it regained in the Second Balkan War .





 Decline of the Empire and Rival

1566 - 1780s  


 World War I and

the end of the empire