Social and Economic Change in the Ottoman Empire
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Stuart Schaar and Marvin Gettlemen’s book the Middle East and the Islamic world reader explores in chapter eleven, the social and economic changes that occurred in the ancient Ottoman Empire. The two authors have incorporated excerpts from the works of three authors to present a detailed anthology of the social and economic transformation of the Ottoman Empire from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century. The first excerpt is from Suraiya Faroqhi. In this excerpt, Suraiya opens the chapter by describing the land tenure system that characterized the Ottoman Empire from the fifteenth to the sixteenth century. Stuart and Marvin then pick up from this except and continue describing the typical land system in the Ottoman Empire
Marvin & Schaar, (2003) describe the land system as characterized by a farm managed by a peasant family, with additional labor provided by neighbors. The ottoman state owned all the land under its jurisdictions. Peasant farmers were just hereditary peasants who paid some levy to the state for farming this land. People appointed by the central government in the Ottoman Empire were the ones who collected land levies from peasants.
In a detailed anthology, Marvin and Stuart, (2003), then explains the contentious issues that characterized the Ottoman Empire land system. They include the conflict over the system of levy collection from peasant farmers, delays in collection of levy by the levy collectors and confusion over the peasant’s farmers who left their land to look for work in cities. The rural setting presented by Marvin and Stuart of the ancient Ottoman Empire also sheds some good light into the nature of life that ancient Ottoman Empire lived. Most of the people in the Ottoman Empire were peasants and nomadic people who alternated their lifestyles between these two lifestyles.
Some of the changes in the land tenure highlighted by Marvin and Stuart in this anthology include a change in the land ownership rights in the sixteenth century. Peasants in the fifteenth century Ottoman Empire had more land rights than the peasants in the sixteenth century onwards because of take over of land by the ruling class that reduced many peasants into laborers. Ottoman Empire largely comprised of a semi agricultural way of life with little divide between town and rural areas.
Among the social cultural changes highlighted by Marvin and Stuart, include a growth of mosques in the nineteenth and the early twenty-century and establishments of schools in many towns across the Ottoman Empire. Marvin and Stuart manage to offer a good introduction of the land tenure and the changes that occurred in the land ownership for the period between the fifteenth and the early 20th century. The two authors manage to shed a good light on the complex land tenure of the Ottoman Empire that later brought serious conflicts that eventually led to its collapse.
The second excerpt that Marvin and Stuart borrow from is by Hanna Batatu. This excerpt addresses the political changes that occurred in the Ottoman Empire especially the centralization of power by ottoman reformers in many parts of the empire. Some of the effects of the centralization of power are well covered in this excerpts .Examples are strengthening land rights of peasants in some regions of the ottoman empire like the Anatolia region And the aristocrats in Baghdad laying big claims on large tracts of land in Basra depriving the poor of their land.
Marvin and Stuart(2003), manages to display in detail the changes that occurred in the ottoman empire when it embraced capitalism influence from western empires like steam navigation, telegraph as a means of communication as well as the political changes such as young Turks revolution in 1908. The two authors also explores in depth how the ottoman imitative of consolidating all land as a property of the state had severe consequences on the balance of power between the different tribes in the ottoman empire and the central government and the levy collectors.
In the end, the ottoman initiative of consolidating power eventually led to the strengthening of power of the ruling sheiks against the central government. The sheiks then in an attempt to consolidate power started to lease out land to foreign tribes laying the ground for ethnic tension. With time, many peasants began to resist the authority of the sheiks. Intermixing of tribes occurred that many shaiks lost support of their tribe, which in a way worked towards to their downfall later in the nineteenth century (Marvin & Stuart, 2003).
Marvin and Stuart expose the major tribal divisions and divisions in the political systems of the Ottoman Empire in this chapter. Their focus is the internal evolution that occurred in the Ottoman Empire through the actions of the peasants, sheiks and the central government. This intriguing historical account of the of complex social economic and political changes that occurred in the ottoman empire and their consequences on the ottoman empire that laid the ground for bitter and bloody divisions within the different tribes and blocs of the empire. These divisions are well presented by Marvin and Stuart as prerequisites for the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century.
The third excerpt that Marvin and Stuart (2003), Borrow from Is by Donald Quartet. This excerpt addresses the problem of the slow pace of the industrialization of the ottoman empire Donald attributes the slow pace of industrialization of the ottoman empire to the fact that the ottoman central government favored the agricultural sector more than industrialization . The reason for this preference was that agriculture produce had a ready export market. Marvin and Stuart also explain that the ottoman government did not also encourage industrialists to invest in manufacturing plants in the empire.
Other explanations offered by Marvin and Stuart(2003), for slow industrialization in the Ottoman Empire are that the empire preferred to import cheap products from industrialized neighbors than establish industries that would produce its own expensive products. Foreign interference also had an influence in the Ottoman Empire slow pace of industrialization process of the Ottoman Empire .An example is the treaty signed by the Ottoman Empire and Britain that prohibited it from imposing huge duties on imported products. The ottoman empire the fore had no clear policy of protecting its local industries from foreign competition .European Empires interfered with the industrialization process in the ottoman empire to ensure that their products did not face stiff competition from the Ottoman Empire products.
As is evident from this detailed presentation by Marvin and Stuart, many external roadblocks prevented the Ottoman Empire from industrialization although there were many laws encouraging the growth of homegrown industries in the Ottoman Empire. The social and economic transformation of the Ottoman Empire was therefore, influenced by interplay of many internal and external factors. Marvin and Stuart manage to give a comprehensive and detailed view of the factors that brought the socio economic changes of the ancient Ottoman Empire and bring into focus the historical, social and economic processes that led to the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Marvin and Stuart have assembled a broad account of the social and the economic transformation of the Ottoman Empire under the influences of factors such as changing social trends, industrialization and European imperialism. This chapter is a great read for people seeking to gain deep insights into the social and economic life of the once mighty Ottoman Empire.
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