Historiography of the Ottoman Empire

The historiography of the Ottoman Empire refers to the studies, sources, critical methods and interpretations used by scholars to develop a history of the Ottoman Dynasty's empire. Historians and their ideas are the focus here; specific lands and historical dates and episodes are covered in the article on the Ottoman Empire.

Scholars have long studied the Empire, looking at the causes for its formation (such as the Ghaza thesis), its relations to the Great Powers (such as Sick man of Europe) and other empires (such as Transformation of the Ottoman Empire), and the kinds of people who became imperialists or anti-imperialists (such as the Young Turks), together with their mindsets. The history of the breakdown of the Empire (such as Ottoman decline thesis) has attracted scholars of the histories of the Middle East (such as Partition of the Ottoman Empire), and Greece (Rise of nationalism in the Ottoman Empire).

New Themes

Western understanding of the Ottoman History. Ottoman history has been rewritten for political and cultural advantage and speculative theories rife with inconsistent research, ahistorical assumptions and embedded biases.[1] Partly because the archives are moderately new. The Ottoman Archives are a collection of historical sources related to the Ottoman Empire and a total of 39 nations whose territories one time or the other were part of this Empire, including 19 nations in the Middle East, 11 in the EU and Balkans, three in the Caucasus, two in Central Asia, Cyprus, as well as Palestine and the Republic of Turkey. Ottoman Bank Archives and Research Centre operated in the former Head Office of the Ottoman Bank

Regarding the Ottoman Industrial Revolution, Edward Clark said, Ottoman responses to this European economic challenge are relatively unknown, and even the extensive and costly Ottoman industrial efforts of the 1840s seemingly have been dismissed as the casual, if not comical games of disinterested bureaucrats... What were the nature and magnitude of these Ottoman responses? What were Ottoman objectives? What main factors contributed to their failures? What if any achievements resulted?[2]

Establishment of the Empire

Osman's Dream is a mythological story relating to the life of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire. The story describes a dream experienced by Osman while staying in the home of a religious figure, Sheikh Edebali, in which he sees a metaphorical vision predicting the growth and prosperity of an empire to be ruled by him and his descendants. However there are other thesis addresses the question of how the Ottomans were able to expand from a small principality on the frontier of the Byzantine Empire into a centralized, intercontinental empire. According to the Ghaza thesis, the Ottomans accomplished this by attracting recruits to fight for them in the name of Islamic holy war against the non-believers. Such a warrior was known in Turkish as a ghazi, and thus this thesis sees the early Ottoman state as a "Ghazi State," defined by an ideology of holy war. The Ghaza Thesis dominated early Ottoman historiography throughout much of the twentieth century before coming under increasing criticism beginning in the 1980s.[3] Historians now generally reject the Ghaza Thesis, and consequently the idea that Ottoman expansion was primarily fueled by holy war, but are conflicted with regard to what to replace it with.[4][5]

Effect of Nationalism

Arabs and Turks in seeking a new identity and foundation for their states exhibited similar hostility, preferring to go back to the Pharaohs, Kings of Babylon and the Hittites of pre-Ottoman Anatolia. This hostility and often vilification,[6] appears less to actual Ottoman policies and more to their state building processes.[7] Doumani’s study of the Arab region of Ottoman Palestine notes, ...most Arab nationalists view the entire Ottoman era as a period of oppressive Turkish rule which stifled Arab culture and socioeconomic development and paved the way for European colonial control and the Zionist takeover of Palestine... The intellectual foundation for this shared image can be traced to the extensive literature published during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Westerners bent on "discovering," hence reclaiming, the Holy Land from what they believed was a stagnant and declining Ottoman Empire.

Collapse of the Empire

Many twentieth-century scholars argued that power of the Ottoman Empire began waning after the death of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1566, and without the acquisition of significant new wealth the empire went into decline, a concept known as the Ottoman Decline Thesis. Since the late 1970s, however, historians increasingly came to question the idea of Ottoman decline, and now there is a consensus among academic historians that the Ottoman Empire did not decline.[8]

See also



  • Faroqhi, Suraiya (1999). Approaching Ottoman History: an Introduction to the Sources. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66648-0.
  • Quataert, Donald (2000). The Ottoman Empire, 1700–1922. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-63328-4.
  • Quataert, Donald (2004). "A provisional report concerning the impact of European capital on Ottoman port workers, 1880–1909". In Huri İslamoğlu-İnan (ed.). The Ottoman Empire and the World-Economy. Studies in Modern Capitalism. 12. Cambridge University Press. pp. 300–310. ISBN 978-0-521-52607-4.
  • Pamuk, Şevket (1987). The Ottoman Empire and European Capitalism, 1820-1913. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Issawi, C. (1966). The Economic History of the Middle East, 1800–1914: a Book of Readings. London: University of Chicago Press.
  • İnalcik, Halil (1994). 1300–1600. An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire. 1.
  • Toledano, E. R. (1997). "The emergence of Ottoman–local elites in the Middle East and North Africa, 17th–19th centuries". In I. Poppe & M. Ma'oz (ed.). Essays in Honour of Albert Hourani. Oxford & London: St Antony's College and Tauris Press.
  • McNeil, W (1964). Europe's Steppe Frontier 1500-1800. London: University of Chicago Press.
  • Itzkowitz, N. (1980). Ottoman Empire and Islamic Tradition. London: University of Chicago Press.
  • İslamoğlu-İnan, Huri (2004). "State and peasants in the Ottoman Empire: a study of peasant economy in north-central Anatolia during the sixteenth century". In Huri İslamoğlu-İnan (ed.). The Ottoman Empire and the World-Economy. Studies in Modern Capitalism. 12. Cambridge University Press. pp. 101–159. ISBN 978-0-521-52607-4.
  • Brown, Richard (2000). Revolution, Radicalism and Reform, England 1780–1846. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-56788-6.

Journal articles


  1. ^ Clark (1974), pp. 65–66.
  2. ^ Clark (1974), pp. 65–66.
  3. ^ Kate Fleet, ed. (2009). The Cambridge History of Turkey. 1, Byzantium to Turkey, 1071–1453. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 424.
  4. ^ Lindner, Rudi Paul (2009). "Anatolia, 1300–1451". In Kate Fleet (ed.). The Cambridge History of Turkey. 1, Byzantium to Turkey, 1071–1453. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 104. Scholars following in Wittek's footsteps have moved away from his strong formulation [...] It is probably safe to suggest that at the moment there is no agreed point of reference about which most scholars gather, and that a more eclectic approach, resting more on the sources than on scholarly tradition, holds the field.
  5. ^ Ágoston, Gábor (2009). "Ghaza (gaza)". In Ágoston, Gábor; Bruce Masters (eds.). Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire. p. 231. The early Ottoman military activity described as ghaza is now thought to have been a much more fluid undertaking, sometimes referring to actions that were nothing more than raids, sometimes meaning a deliberate holy war, but most often combining a mixture of these elements.
  6. ^ Toledano (1997), p. 145.
  7. ^ In countries such as Serbia to Rumania, Turkey to Syria and Iraq; Quataert (2000), pp. 193–195.
  8. ^ Hathaway, Jane (2008). The Arab Lands under Ottoman Rule, 1516-1800. Pearson Education Ltd. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-582-41899-8. historians of the Ottoman Empire have rejected the narrative of decline in favor of one of crisis and adaptation;
    Tezcan, Baki (2010). The Second Ottoman Empire: Political and Social Transformation in the Early Modern Period. Cambridge University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-107-41144-9. Ottomanist historians have produced several works in the last decades, revising the traditional understanding of this period from various angles, some of which were not even considered as topics of historical inquiry in the mid-twentieth century. Thanks to these works, the conventional narrative of Ottoman history – that in the late sixteenth century the Ottoman Empire entered a prolonged period of decline marked by steadily increasing military decay and institutional corruption – has been discarded.;
    Woodhead, Christine (2011). "Introduction". In Christine Woodhead (ed.). The Ottoman World. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-415-44492-7. Ottomanist historians have largely jettisoned the notion of a post-1600 ‘decline’