The Middle Eastern Experience with
Imperialism
Egypt
The once wealthy and
great Ottoman
Empire was rocked in
1798 by Napoleon’s
invasion of Egypt.
 The French were met
by tens of thousands
of cavalry bent on
defending the
Mamluk regime under
their leader Murad.

Egypt

Murad, when told of Napoleon’s invasion,
dismissed the invader as a “donkey boy”
whom he would soon drive from his lands.
Egypt
Murad’s contempt for Napoleon and the
French was symptomatic of the profound
ignorance of events in Europe that was
typical of the Islamic world at the time.
 This ignorance led to a series of crushing
defeats to the French, the most famous
was fought in the shadows of the great
pyramids.
 The Mamluks were clad in medieval armor
and used spears against French artillery,
rifles, and disciplined French legions.

Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of the
Pyramids, July 1798.
Egypt
The defeat of the Mamluks was traumatic
for the Ottoman world because they were
considered fighters of great prowess.
 It also showed how vulnerable the Muslim
world was to European aggression, and
how far they had fallen behind Europe in
their capacity to wage war.

Egypt
When the French were forced out by the
British in 1801, an Ottoman military officer
(of Albanian origin) named Muhammad Ali
(r. 1805-1848) seized control as an
independent ruler.
 Even though he remained nominally
subordinate to the Ottoman sultan, by 1820
he ruled the most powerful land in the
Muslim world.

Egypt
He even invaded Syria and Anatolia
(Turkey), threatening to capture Istanbul
and topple the Ottoman state.
 The Ottomans survived only because the
British intervened out of fear that an
Ottoman collapse would result in Russian
expansion.
 The Ottoman Empire never did regain
control of Egypt.

Muhammad Ali
 Ali,
known as the
“father of modern
Egypt,” was the
first non-Western
leader in the
Middle East to try
to modernize his
society in Western
terms.
Muhammad Ali

Ali never visited the
West (like Peter the
Great) but he
admired Western
achievements and
realized he must
modernize in order
to stay independent
of Europe.
Muhammad Ali
Impressed by the discipline and weapons of
the French army, Ali began building an upto-date European style military force.
 He introduced Western-style conscription
among the Egyptian peasants, hired French
officers to train his troops, and imported
Western armaments.
 Ali does what every other country does as it
modernizes—it first focuses on the military.

Muhammad Ali
Ali launched a program of industrialization
in cotton textiles and armaments, but he
was unable to create a European styled
industrial society.
 So Ali concentrated on developing an
export market for Egyptian cotton
(considered by many to be the world’s
finest), hemp, and indigo.

Muhammad Ali
Ali had many Western
science and technology
books translated into
Arabic, he hired Western
teachers, and he sent
Egyptian students to
study abroad.
 French became an
unofficial second
language next to Arabic.

Muhammad Ali
Unfortunately, few in
Egypt were actually
educated beyond the
children of the most
powerful families.
 Egyptian society, for
the most part, wasn’t
transformed.

Egypt
Ali was unable to break
the limitations imposed
by Western dominance
of the world economy.
 Egypt became
increasingly dependent
on the Western market
for cotton (meaning it
had to compete on the
world market with
India and the southern
United States).

Egypt
Export earnings were most
often insufficient to pay for
machines or military
equipment so Egypt often
went into debt to Western
banks.
 Egyptians paid a whopping
12% interest on loans for
improvements while
Europeans paid less than
5%.

Egypt

Here was the tragic irony that happened
in Egypt, the Middle East, and many other
places in the 19th and 20th centuries:
Governments want to modernize their
countries, they want to buy new
armaments and modernize their militaries,
they want industrial machinery, to build
public buildings, roads, etc. but these cost
a lot of money at a time when their
economies were often sluggish.
Egypt
Oftentimes, in
situations like this,
nations are tempted
to borrow money
from foreign banks.
 This gives the
foreigners an interest
in protecting their
loans. If a borrower
defaulted on the loan,
the Western bank
would usually ask for
military assistance.

The Suez Canal
The Crimean War had shown the major powers
that the Mediterranean was of pivotal/strategic
importance to the Eurocentric system.
 So the Europeans invested in building railroads
throughout Egypt.

The Suez Canal

Napoleon III of France took
a major interest in building
the Suez Canal (18591869), which would
connect the Mediterranean
with the Red Sea and the
Indian Ocean, dramatically
shortening the travel time
between Europe, Eastern
Africa, and Asia.
The Suez Canal
The Suez Canal
Egypt was now one of the most strategic
places on earth.
 When the French completed the 102 mile
Canal in 1869, Europeans developed a craze
for everything Egyptian…architecture,
furniture, textiles, art.

The Suez Canal
By the 1850’s, steamships (and
correspondence) took four months to
make the round trip between London and
(Mumbai) Bombay.
 After the opening of the Suez Canal,
steamships (3/4ths were British) traveled
from Britain to India in less than two
weeks.

The Suez Canal
By the 1870’s the Egyptians were so deep
in debt, they were forced to sell their
shares (44%) of the Suez Canal…and
Britain scooped them up immediately for
the current equivalent of 90 million
pounds.
 Controlling the Canal became a key
objective of the imperial powers
(especially Britain).

The Suez Canal
Muhammad Ali and other Egyptian rulers
wanted to modernize their army, strengthen
their economy, and further distance
themselves from Ottoman authority, but by
the 1870’s crushing debt forced Egyptian
officials to impose high taxes which caused
popular unrest and a military rebellion.
 In 1882, it was Egypt’s heavy indebtedness
to British banks that caused the British army
to occupy Egypt to protect British financial
interests and ensure the safety of the Suez
Canal.

The Suez Canal
Britain then
established a
protectorate over
the Egyptian
government.
 The British said
they were merely
protecting their
investment.

Egypt
Even though Egypt was not formally
colonized, the British controlled Egyptian
finances and foreign affairs, and British
troops ensured British directives were
followed.
 The British forced the reshaping of the
Egyptian economy from the production of
several crops (which maintained selfsufficiency) to the production of only a few
crops that were useful to European
manufacturing (cotton, tobacco, silk, wheat,
rice).

Egypt
This made the British a lot of money but the
population of Egypt barely eked out an
existence.
 While the British controlled Egypt, the French
took control of nearby Tunisia and Algeria.
 Britain, France and Germany flooded Egypt
and Asia Minor (today’s Middle East) with
cheap manufactured goods, driving artisans
from their trades and into low paying work
(building railroads or processing tobacco).

Egypt
Instead of basing wages on gender (like in
Europe), the Europeans used ethnicity and
religion…Muslims were paid less than
Christians, and Arabs less than other ethnic
groups.
 This, a hatred for the occupiers, plus a growing
sense of nationalism created the seeds for anticolonial movements.

Egypt and Sudan
As Egypt fell under
British control, they
were drawn into
conflicts with Egypt’s
southern neighbor,
Sudan.
 Egypt had tried to
control Sudan since the
1820’s, and the
Sudanese resisted
fiercely.

Sudan
By the late 1870’s, Egyptian oppression
and British intervention had aroused deep
resentment and hostility in Sudan.
 A Sudanese leader arose, known as the
Mahdi, who claimed to be a descendant of
the Muhammad (he even had a mole on
his right cheek and a cleft between his
teeth).

Sudan

The Mahdi called for
jihad as he promised
to rid the land of the
Egyptian heretics
and the British
infidels.
Sudan
He led his followers on violent assaults
(usually using guerrilla tactics) on the
Egyptians and British.
 Within a few years, his forces controlled
most of Sudan.
 But at the peak of his power, he caught
typhus (a parasitic bacteria found in lice
and fleas/rats) and died (1885).

Sudan
But rather than collapse after his death, his
followers continued to build a strong Islamic
state.
 They outlawed smoking, alcoholic drink,
dancing, prostitution, theft and adultery.
 Islamic religious and ritual practices were
strictly enforced.

Sudan
In late 1896, the British, tired of this
activity (a British general had been killed in
1895), sent an expeditionary force into
Sudan to do battle with the Mahdis and
end the most serious threat to European
domination of Africa.
 In September 1898 in central Sudan, near
the junction of the White and Blue Nile
rivers, one of the most famous battles in
British history took place.

Sudan

At the Battle of
Omdurman, the
spears and magic
garments of the
Mahdis were no
match for the
modern artillery and
forty Maxim guns of
the British.
Sudan

More than 11,000
Sudanese Mahdis
were killed, 16,000
more were wounded
and 5,000 captured
compared to less
than 50 British
soldiers killed.
Sudan
A British journalist wrote that “it wasn’t a
battle…it was an execution.”
 The English left the wounded enemy to die on
the plain and later, after triumphantly entering
Khartoum, they looted the city and murdered
many of the Khalifa’s leading followers.
 They also had the Mahdi’s bones exhumed
and thrown into the Nile (rumor had it that the
commanding general had the Mahdi’s skull
made into a drinking cup).

Sudan

Within a year, the Mahdist state collapsed,
and British power advanced into the interior
of Africa and sealed British control of the
Nile.
The Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire
Suleyman died in the late 16th
century, the Ottoman Empire began a
slow and prolonged death rattle.
 A long succession of weak or inept
sultans caused destructive power
struggles within various factions, all
vying for power.
 After
The Ottoman Empire
 No
longer able to afford the enormous
expense of maintaining a far-flung
empire, and consistent losers in
battle, several surrounding states
began chipping away at the edges of
territory controlled by the Ottomans.
The Ottoman Empire
the early 18th century, the
Austrians and the Russians had
removed the Ottomans from control of
the northern Black Sea region, from
Hungary, and from the northern
Balkans.
 By the early 19th century, revolts in
Serbia (eventually put down) and
Greece (gained independence 1830)
showed an empire in collapse.
 By
The Ottoman Empire
 For
the empire to survive, reform
initiatives had to be performed from
within the government.
 Unfortunately, many initiatives were
met with resistance from those
factions that stood to lose power or
prestige from their implementation.
The Ottoman Empire
 For
example,
Sultan Selim III
(r. 1789-1807)
understood the
need to make his
government more
efficient and to
build a new army
and navy.
The Ottoman Empire
 The
powerful
Janissary corps
felt threatened by
this and staged a
revolt, killing the
new troops and
locking up the
sultan.
The Ottoman Empire
Selim’s successor
tried to revive the new
military force, rampaging
Janissaries killed all male
members of the dynasty
except one, Selim’s
cousin Mahmud II, who
became sultan (r. 18081839).
 When
The Ottoman Empire
 Mahmud
II secretly built a small, elite,
private army with European help.
 In 1826, he incited the Janissaries to
mutiny, then had them slaughtered by
his private army.
 Mahmud II now felt able to enact
reforms.
The Ottoman Empire
 While
religious leaders and
traditionalists wanted a return to past
models, Mahmud II pushed for
Western styled reforms.
 European military advisors were hired
to modernize and Westernize the
army and navy (armaments and
training).
The Ottoman Empire
 Mahmud
II also established a
Western styled diplomatic corps and
exchanged ambassadors with the
European powers.
 But Mahmud’s modest reforms were
not enough to strengthen the
Ottoman military to the point where it
could repel the European powers.
The Ottoman Empire

Britain, France,
Germany, and Italy
snatched Northern
Africa from the
Ottomans who were
so weak by the
middle of the 19th
century, the once
great empire was
known as the “sick
man of Europe.”
The Ottoman Empire
The European powers could have taken
whatever they wanted from the Ottomans but
these powers could not decide who got what,
so they left the center of the Ottoman Empire
(Turkey-Asia Minor) intact.
 The Middle East remained socially and
politically independent as they were not
directly occupied or ruled by the Europeans.
 But they lost their economic independence as
they were drawn into the European dominated
world economy.

The Ottoman Empire

“Be my ally, or I’ll give you the worst
thrashing you ever had in your life.”
The Ottoman Empire
The Crimean War (1853-56) was an
example of Ottoman weakness.
 The Russians pressed against Ottoman
territory and had it not been for the aid of
the British and French, the Russians might
have been successful in dismembering the
empire.
 The British didn’t want the Russians
controlling the eastern Mediterranean.

The Ottoman Empire
After the Crimean War, the Ottoman
Empire continued to lose territory as
Russia pushed down from the north and
eventually took all lands to the north and
east of the Black Sea.
 By 1912, Eastern European Christian
governments (Romania, Bulgaria,
Yugoslavia—the Balkans) had driven the
remaining Ottoman Turks out.

The Ottoman Empire
Starting after the reign of Mahmud II,
Western influence became even more
pronounced in what became known as the
Tanzimat reforms (1839-1876).
 Tanzimat means reorganization or reform
in Turkish.

The Ottoman Empire
Reforms tried to encourage Ottomanism
among the many ethnic groups that lived
in the Ottoman Empire and to prevent the
slow decline of the empire.
 The reforms attempted, but failed, to
integrate non-Muslims and non-Turks
more thoroughly into the Ottoman society
through civil liberties and regulations.

The Ottoman Empire
The initial Tanzimat reforms included:
 Western styled university educations;
 Training in European sciences and
mathematics;
 Establishing a state-run postal service and
telegraph service;
 Railroad construction (1860s);
 Establishing newspapers in major cities
and extensive legal reforms.

The Ottoman Empire






In 1856, the Ottoman government under sultan
Abdulmecid I (r. 1849-1861), issued the Hatt-i
Humayun, the most far-reaching reform of the
century.
It abolished the civil authority of religious leaders.
Equality before the law was guaranteed.
Open eligibility for public office without regard of
one’s religion.
The army was opened to Muslims and Christians.
Newspapers were founded. The ideas of
Montesquieu and Rousseau were translated.
The Ottoman Empire

Sultan Abdul Mecid I sent 52 volumes of Ottoman
literature, mathematics, poetry, history, and logic to
the new School of Oriental Languages in Boston.
 The first sultan to travel to Europe, Abdul Aziz
(r. 1861-1876), visited Vienna, London, and Paris in
1867.
The Ottoman Empire
But the reforms also lifted trade barriers
which hurt the artisans, whose position
was weakened now that they were
unprotected against the competition of the
West.
 Reforms concerning women (education,
ending seclusion and the veil, and
polygamy) were debated, but few, if any,
were actually enacted.

The Ottoman Empire

In 1876 the new sultan,
Abdul Hamid II (r.18761909), declared the Empire
would promote personal
liberty, freedom of
education, freedom of the
press, and a parliamentary
government.
 But within two years, he
threw out the constitution
and dissolved the
parliament.
The Ottoman Empire

Abdul Hamid II became
increasingly fearful of
anything Western.
 For example, new
chemistry books for the
university were
considered seditious
because their chemical
symbols were thought
to be secret codes.
The Ottoman Empire
However, Abdul Hamid continued to push
for westernizing his military (he hired
German military advisors).
 He also extended telegraph/communication
lines between cities and railway lines
(including the Orient Express and the Berlin
to Baghdad line).

The Ottoman Empire

Financial mismanagement and
incompetence, along with national revolts
in the Balkans and eastern Anatolia, the
French occupation of Algeria and Tunisia,
the takeover by the British in Egypt and
the Italians in Libya, threatened to end the
very existence of the Empire, let alone its
reforms.
The Ottoman Empire
Europe valued innovation, industry, and
technological progress. These things
were spurned by the Ottomans.
 The economy of the Ottoman Turks
declined with the trade shift to the
Eurocentric system.
 The economic decline was hastened by
the flood of cheaper, machine (factory)
made goods which virtually destroyed
Ottoman industry.

The Ottoman Empire
As it grew poorer and poorer, the Ottoman
Empire borrowed money from Europe to make
ends meet.
 When it could not even pay on the interest (in
1879 the Empire declared bankruptcy)
European banks took control of Ottoman
finances to make sure it paid on its debt.
 The Empire now had no control over its
economic life…it was controlled by Europe.

The Ottoman Empire
European diplomacy focused on the socalled “Eastern Question” of how to
dispose of the “Sick Man's” territories
without upsetting the European balance of
power.
 As it grew poorer, frustration with nonTurkish subjects increased.
 As nationalism increased among the
Bulgars, Macedonians, Armenians, and
others, the Ottomans dealt with them very
harshly.

The Ottoman Empire
The Ottomans
massacred Bulgarian
peasants in 1876 and
Armenians in 1894.
 Europeans were
shocked by this
violence and wanted
to find ways to
dissolve the Empire.

The Ottoman Empire
Abdul Hamid’s despotism caused several
intellectuals and political opponents to
move to Paris.
 There, they formed the Ottoman Society
for Union and Progress (1889), more
commonly known as the Young Turks.
 The Young Turks wanted to restore the
1876 constitution and continue the reforms
they felt necessary for the empire to
survive.

The Young Turks
 In
1908, a revolution
(coup d’etat) led by
the Young Turks put
military officers in
charge of the
government and
forced Abdul Hamit
to restore the
parliament and
constitution.
The Young Turks
They restored freedoms of the press.
 Educational reforms and reforms for
women were promised.
 The sultan was not killed, but he was
reduced to merely being a political
figurehead and the religious leader of
Islam.

The Young Turks

Rapid modernization continued during the
Young Turk era (1908-18), with particular
attention given to urbanization, agriculture,
industry, communications, secularization of
the state and the emancipation of women.
The Young Turks
But the Young Turks didn’t fare much
better than the sultans, as they lost wars in
the Balkans (1912) and they lost Libya
(their last possession in North Africa) to
Italy.
 Only by playing the European powers
against each other did the Ottoman
Empire survive (but barely).

The Ottoman Empire
 The
empire was involved in World
War I and took sides with Germany
and Austria-Hungary.
 The defeat of the Central Powers led
to the breakup, foreign occupation,
and final demise of the Ottoman
Empire.
The Ottoman Empire








This was how the Ottoman Empire reacted to
European economic imperialism:
Ottoman rulers tried to modernize and Westernize.
Like Peter the Great’s reforms in Russia, the reform
of the Ottomans was severe.
Western hair styles and clothes were adopted.
Western teachers and textbooks were imported.
Western style schools replaced religious schools.
Western military officers designed tactics and trained
soldiers.
The Sharia (the Koran’s code of laws) was
abandoned and replaced with Swiss and Belgian
legal codes.
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The Middle Eastern Experience with Imperialism