Sample Essay on The Establishment of the Ottoman Empire

The book Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922 is written by Donald Quataert. The book is a second edition by the same author published by Cambridge University Press New York, in 2005. The book is 234 pages long. The Ottoman Empire has played a major role in global history as it was one of the non-Western states to endure the change during the medieval to present times. The empire has influences peoples way of life in Balkans, Middle East, and western and central Europe. Donald Quataert in this new survey examines gender issues and the treatment of minorities during the latter years of the Ottoman Empire. Donald Quataert was a History Professor at New York’s state University, Binghamton. He is credited to have published many books with special interest in the history of ottoman and the Middle East. As a lecturer, Quataert taught courses on Ottoman and the Middle East history with special focus on social and economic lives of the people during the medieval and modern times. Among his other publications includes: Ottoman Manufacturing in the Age of the Industrial Revolution, Social Disintegration and Popular Resistance in the Ottoman Empire, 1881-1908, Consumption Studies of the Ottoman Empire, 1550-1922 An Introduction and an Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1914. As a historian, Quataert’s publication are all about history andOttoman Empire, 1700-1922 is no exception. The book belongs to the social sciences discipline as it studies human society (the Ottoman Empire) and the relationships of people in that society. The book examines the major developmentsof the empire during its latter years; paying close attention to gender issues and the treatment of minorities.

The Ottoman Empire was not only the biggest empire but also the longest lasting empire in the whole world. An empire that begun in the medieval times died only recently but it left behind surviving nations that still hold the original names given to them by their Ottoman Empire parent. These nations are Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. “Thus, for many, this empire is a living legacy(Quataert 2005).” During the Sixteenth century, the empire co-existed with other powerful empires among them England, Spain, the Roman Empire, Valois France, Dutch Republic, Moghul empire in India, and Vienna. The empires prospered under careful administration and were enriched by trade. Earlier in the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire had conquered the second Rome, Byzantium and therefore changing status from regional power to global empire. The Ottoman inherited some Roman heritage in the process. “In some respects, the Ottomans followed certain Byzantine administrative models. Like the Byzantines, the Ottomans practiced a kind of caesaro-papism, the system in which the state controlled the clergy. In the Ottoman judiciary the courts were run by judges, members of the religious class, the ulema. The Ottoman sultans appointed these judges and thus, like their Byzantine imperial predecessors, exercised a direct control over members of the religious establishment(Quataert 2005).” Additionally, the Ottomans also copied the Byzantine forms of land tenure in the Ottoman era. As the continued to conquer lands, the Ottomans shared their traditions and also copied traditions of the conquered states. The Ottomans were not only shaped by others but they affected the formation of many west, east and central European states. For example, the Ottomans are solely responsible for the paranoid style in twentieth-century Soviet Russian politics. Russia felt the presence of the Ottoman Empire blocked its way to the ports of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. For centuries, the Ottomans and Russians were engaged in war. The Ottoman Empire also played a major role in the creation of the Habsburg state. In the 17th century, the Ottoman Empire failed to defend its territory and questions about which super power would inherit the Ottomans territories prompted World War 1.

Ottomans relied on male heir to continue their rule. However, women are visible in the history of Ottoman Empire. Nilufer, wife of the second Ottoman ruler, Sultan Orhan (1324–1362), served as governor of a newly conquered city. However, women did yield power using informal channels such as marriage for power. For example, Sultan Orhan married the daughter of a pretender to the Byzantine throne, John Cantacuzene, and received the strategically vital Gallipoli peninsula to boot. Like many other dynasties in the medieval ages, the Ottomans often used marriage to consolidate or extend power. As expansion of the empire weakened, administrative skills became more important than warrior skills. Women could not be warriors but when the state needed intellect and not muscle, women started to rise in power. “…between the later sixteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries, the mothers and wives of sultans came more visibly to the fore in decision-making, wielding considerable if still informal political power(Quataert 2005).” The end of the rule of the Harem brought to a halt female political control in the 18th century. However, elite women continued to be powerful. Power matches continued to exist as dynasty daughters were married off to ranking officials as a means of forging alliances and maintaining authority. In the face of modernization during the 19th century, Ottoman women began to be included in the modernization process. A dress code was enacted in the Ottoman Empire requiring different attires for women and men. As a result, women were forced to wear head gears. Families began to seek education for their daughters in the mid 19th century. Equality did not however prosper in all areas as modernization reforms saw women lose their property rights.

The Ottoman Empire was a multi-religion empire. Islam was the dominant religion but Jews and Christians existed too. “Christian and Jewish subjects sometimes were persecuted or killed because they did not share the Islamic faith of the state apparatus(Quataert 2005).” During the 13th century, the Ottoman Empire used Christians as soldier but as the empire gained power and stability during the 14th and 15th century more emphasis was placed on its Islamic character. Later, Ottomans Christian were to gain more economic power than their Islamic counterparts. Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire were required to pay a special tax to ensure their protection. Religious distinction became more important during the 19th century as Christians tried to fight the Islamic dominant ottoman Rule.

The book serves to enlighten the reader about a long serving empire that died in the 20th century and was the most influential in the world. The author’s objective is to show how the might ottoman empire survived in the latter years and the gender roles in the society. As a multi-religion empire, the author explicitly narrates how the various religions in the empire related. The empire had a moral code to protect Jews and Christians as they were also God’s people. However, these minorities were sometimes attacked and killed for their religion by the same state that ought to have protected them. The message in the book is definitely a success with a little bit of overachievement on the author’s part. The author has written an authoritative, accessible and lively narrative that takes the reader from the beginning of the Ottoman Empire to the end. The author uses chronological and genealogical tables, illustrations and maps to support his narrative. The use of such evidence is important to students and other scholars when using the book. For every chapter, the author cites the books and sources used to guide his narrative. The sources are sufficient and compatible with the respective texts they are used on. The book has new information like the fact that Ottomans are responsible for the paranoid politics of Russia. “These wars had a powerful impact on the evolution and shaping of the emerging Russian power: The Muscovite state’s deep fears of powerful enemies on its southern (and western) flanks permanently marked its polity with a need to seek safety in expansion and domination (Quataert 2005).” Also new in the book is the fact that women in the former centuries held power positions. Going with the current Islamic laws in countries like Iraq, one cannot help but notice how modernization stripped Islamic women off their political power. The target audience for this book is scholars and students alike as it is an important resource in studies of the Ottoman Empire.


Quataert, D. (2005). The Ottoman Empire: 1700 – 1922. New York [u.a.: Cambrige Univ. Press.