1789-1808 1839-1861

The Ottoman Empire 1808-1839

In Ottoman history, the years 1808 to 1839 coincide with the rule of Sultan MAHMUD II. Placed on the throne in the course of a short-lived coup staged by Bayrakdar Mustafa Pasha, a reformer (assassinated by Yanissaries in Nov. 1808), he gradually established control over the government. In 1826 he established a regular modern army; when the Yanissary regiments revolted in protest, he had the rebels shot down. Immediately afterward, the Bektashi Sufi Brotherhood - traditionally an organization supporting the Yanissaries - was outlawed.
French, British and Prussian officers were brought in to train the army. The first students were sent abroad (to Paris) in 1827; a medical school was opened in Istanbul (1827), an Imperial Music School (1831, where Donizetti taught for a while), a School of Military Sciences (1834). An attempt to reform primary and secondary education Empire-wide, begun in 1838, did not mature during Mahmud's lifetime (-1839). Textbooks, in many cases, had been translated from European languages into Turkish; the many languages spoken in the Empire proved an obstacle to far-reaching reforms.
The language question was a difficult problem. Traditionally, the DRAGOMANS (official translators, in practise enjoying considerable political authority) had played a crucial role in Ottoman administration and diplomacy. Almost all of them had been Greeks - until the Greek revolt of 1821; then it was decided that Muslims only were to be appointed as future dragomans.
In 1831 a census and survey of the Empire was undertaken, measures intended to raise the tax revenue. Feudal fiefs were abolished (1831); an official gazette began to publish (1831), government control over the provinces strengthened, traditional Ottoman institutions transformed into Ministries of Justice, Education etc.
Reforms also included a Westernization in outward appearance, beginning with the army (1826); in 1829 a Dress Code for civilians was published (resented by the Muslim ulema).

During much of the rule of Mahmud II., the Ottoman Empire faced outside challenge. In 1812 Russian forces occupied the Danubian Principalities (MOLDAVIA, VALLACHIA); in a brief RUSSO-OTTOMAN WAR, the front had to be stabilized. In 1817 the Ottoman Empire recognized the political autonomy of SERBIA. Meanwhile, under Khedive MUHAMMAD ALI ruled virtually independently, at times expanding his influence over Syria and the Hejaz. During the Greek insurrection, Sultan Mahmud entrusted Muhammad Ali with suppressing the uprising. In 1827, a combined Anglo-Russian fleet defeated the Ottoman fleet; peace was restored in 1829, the independence of Greece was recognized by the Sublime Porte in 1832. In 1832 the Ottoman forces were defeated by Egyptian forces at Konya; only Russian aid provided the Sultan with protection for Istanbul.. Syria had to be ceded to the Khedive.

Biography of Mahmud II., from Columbia Encyclopedia
Sultan Mahmud II., from Ottoman Website
Centralization during the Era of Mahmud II, from Mustafa Gokcek's World
DOCUMENTS Ottoman Fermans : Mahmud II., from Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commented scans
REFERENCE Jason Goodwin, Lords of the Horizons, 1999, 352 pp.
Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, Oxford : University Press, (1961) 1969, 524 pp.

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on April 22nd 2002, last revised on May 10th 2006

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz