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Chapter 1: The Ottoman Empire (An Introduction to Middle East Politics)

Chapter 1: The Ottoman Empire and its Legacy in the Middle East

The Middle East is the birthplace of three monotheistic faiths of Judaism (2000 BCE), Christianity (1st Century AD), and Islam (7th century CE).

The Ottomans tried to regulate Islam across the empire through the Grand Mufti.

In the 18th and 19th century, the sovereignty of the Sultan of his subject eroded because of the “Capitulation Treaties” signed in 1536 by Sultan Suleiman. This treaty exempted French citizens who lived in the Empire from taxes. Other European groups exploited these conditions until the 19th century, when theory granted citizenship to non-Muslim groups in the Empire.

This led to economic stagnation which saw the Ottomans default on their debts to Europe. This led to the creation of OPDA (Ottoman Public Debt Administration) in 1881, which was controlled by European financial institutions that would manage Ottoman state revenues for forgiveness for half of Ottoman debt. The Ottomans thus relinquished a lot of decision making, which led to resentment towards the European powers, and the desire for more independence.

The Europeans at first dealt informally with Christians throughout the Empire and established trade relationships with them – the Christian subsidiaries gained power within the Empire. The Christian position was enhanced because of the tax breaks they got, which allowed them to sell for cheaper prices than Muslim merchants.

An Introduction to Middle East PoliticsChapter 1: The Ottoman Empire (An Introduction to Middle East Politics) 1

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