The Ottoman Empire 1789-1808

Sultan Selim III. (1789-1808) credited the Russian victory in the Russo-Ottoman War of 1768-1774 to the modernization of Russia's army. Selim III. intended to modernize (westernize) the Ottoman army, by emphasizing promotion through merit, regular drill and the enforcement of discipline, by bringing in western (French, German, British) officers, by modernizing existing military schools and opening new ones, by establishing, in addition to existing regiments, the New Order Army. The reforms required revenues, which the New Fund Treasury was to raise.
Selim III. established permanent Ottoman embassies in Paris, London, Vienna and Berlin.
When Selim III. ascended to the throne in 1789, the Ottoman Empire was involved in wars with Russia (1787-1791) and with Austria (1788-1791). Many remote regions of the Empire had slipped out of Ottoman control (Tripoli, Barka (Senussi rule); Egypt (de facto ruled by the Mamluk garrison of Cairo); southern Iraq was exposed to Wahhabite raids; the Wahhabi ruled El Hasa; Kuwait was de facto independent, as were the Kurdish regions of southeastern Anatolia and the Pashaliks of Shkoder and Janina (Albania).

The changes which had been triggered by the French Revolution began to, indirectly, affect the Ottoman Empire. In 1797, in the Treaty of Campoformio, France and Austria split Venetian territory, the Ionian Islands coming under French rule; the French established a printing press on Corfu. In 1798, a Russian fleet occupied the Ionian Islands. The very same year, Napoleon landed an army in Egypt, defeated the local forces in the Battle of the Pyramids, and laid siege to Acre. Britain and Russia entered into an Alliance with the Ottoman Empire, solely concluded to deal with the momentary crisis. Napoleon returned to France in 1799; his army was repatriated from Egypt to France in 1800. Alexandria was occupied by the British 1801-1803.
In 1805, Sultan Selim III. appointed Mehmet Ali governor of Egypt; he would energetically modernize Egypt. In 1806, another Russo-Ottoman War broke out that lasted until 1812 and resulted in the loss of Bessarabia. In 1807, France and Russia concluded an alliance, and Napoleon contemplated, together with Russia, to partition the Ottoman Empire. That year, the British landed a force in Egypt, but was checked by the forces of Mehmet Ali and departed without having accomplished anything.
A side effect of frequent wars and additional expenses for the modern army came in the form of debased currency and inflation. The Janissaries were discontent, because they regarded the New Order Army as competition; unable to suppress a Janissary rebellon, Selim III. abdicated in 1807. He was assassinated in a palace coup intended to restore him to the throne.

REFERENCE Jason Goodwin, Lords of the Horizons, 1999, 352 pp.
Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, Oxford : University Press, (1961) 1969, 524 pp.
Douglas A. Howard, The History of Turkey, Westport CT : Greenwood 2001, KMLA Lib.Sign. 956.1 H848h

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on July 13th 2005, last revised on May 10th 2006

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