Middle East Discuss the Difficulties Faced by

Middle East

Discuss the difficulties faced by the Middle Eastern empires in adapting to the intellectual, technological, economic, political, and social challenges presented by the West in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Middle Eastern empires had to adapt to the various challenges presented by the West in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries once it was clear that the balance of power in the affairs of the region had shifted to the West, meaning the powers in the West could be neither ignored nor controlled. By the end of the eighteenth century, the balance of power had shifted against the Ottoman Empire and toward the European Christian states. The Ottoman's had shown a progressive shift away from Europe and toward the East, and this was a major change in thinking. During the first three centuries of its existence, the Ottoman Empire had concentrated on the conquest and control of Christian lands, moving Islam toward the West, and the power and glory of the Empire had derived from this.

By this time, the Ottoman Empire was governed by the doctrines set in place by the Hatt-i-Serif of Gulhane from 1839 and Islahat Fermani from 1856 (see Khater, 2003), though the move to establish equality throughout the empire was not fully implemented and did not satisfy either Muslims or Christians.. The fact that the empire was seen as in decline caused the leaders of the empire to place greater emphasis on their leadership of Islam so that they could prove their power in Asia even as it waned in the West. As Gelvin (2005) writes, "Their goal was to strengthen their states in the face of internal and external threat and to make their governments more proficient in managing their populations and their resources. The process is known as developmentalism" (pp. 72-73). This process affected different pats of society in different ways. Ottoman society was divided into two groups, the large mass of subjects who were to produce wealth by engaging in industry, trade, and agriculture and who paid taxes to the ruler; and a small group of rulers who acted as instruments of the sovereign in collecting his revenues and using them to support him. The purpose of the state was to 1) organize the exploitation of the ruler's wealth; 2) provide for the expansion and defense of this wealth; 3) keep order; and 4) promote Islam. Social mobility was possible in this system based on ambition, ability, and good fortune, and indeed members of the ruling class were not born into it. The ruling class consisted of Moslems and Ottomans loyal to the sultan and who had apprenticed themselves to a member of the ruling class. The ministers of the Imperial Institution ruled the state, but over time they were seriously weakened by the political and factional struggles and also by their relatively short terms in office. This military institution maintained its power through intimidation and violence and also by placing members in high positions. It also lost power because of internal anarchy and the decline of the corps as a military instrument.

Gelvin (2005) notes how many of the initiatives placed under the label of developmentalism failed for various reasons, including local resistance, poor planning, and simple circumstance. Gelvin sees developmentalism as a defensive posture, one that he also finds was counterproductive. He cites the financial element as an example, noting the way leaders had to finance more modern armies and did so by expanding the growth of cash crops to export to Europe as they also borrowed money from Europeans to pay for railroads and ports to transport these crops: "Thus, to resist European military expansion, Middle Eastern rulers actually encouraged European economic expansion into, and the further peripheralization of, their domains" (p. 76).

The shift in power to the West caused the leaders in the Ottoman Empire to try to regain their footing by building up their military, increasing trade, and so re-asserting a degree of control and power in their international dealings, but they did so in a way that bolstered the hegemony of the West and that only made them more dependent on trade with the West. This was clearly not intended, but it occurred in part because the approach of developmentalism was not thought through in all of its ramifications.

Discuss the various reactions of the people of the Middle East to western incursion. Which approaches were successful, which failures, and why. Could people of the Middle East have done anything different to protect themselves from western encroachment?

The reaction of the various countries in the Middle East to western incursion was similar as each country sought a way to control the political, social, and economic realms in the face of this new challenge, trying to get back to an earlier period when the Islamic countries controlled their own destiny.

The Egyptian government set out to control all aspects of agriculture:

It encouraged the planting of cash crops, particularly cotton. It set up a government monopoly... that bought cotton from the cultivators and sold it to European agents. It invested in industries associated with cotton, such as ginning and spinning (Gelvin, 2005, p. 77).

Such changes had social consequences as women worked now in the factories while men performed forced labor for the government

Many attributed the predicament in which Islamic societies had found themselves to the fact that those societies had abandoned the original teachings and doctrines of Islam (Gelvin, 2005, p. 125).

The conflict then as now was often between modernization on the one hand and a desire to return to more fundamental principles.

This desire to revive the old ways was a direct response to the perception that what was being taken from the West was not Islamic and may have been detrimental to the welfare of the people.

Describe and analyze the great-power competition over Persia before 1907. After considering the Anglo-Russian Entente, discuss its effectiveness in keeping stability in the area.

The Persian state under the rule of the Qajars fared differently than did the Ottomans facing the same Western intrusion. The Qajars had come to power relatively recently, and they and their country were targeted by the Russians and the British alike.

In economic terms, the Qajars tried to modernize the country's commerce by making deals with Europeans to European financiers and adventurers, though such agreements were often made and then canceled. Concessions made to the British and then canceled by the shah often cost the Persian government a good deal of money and produced deficits for the government, leading to more foreign borrowing. Revolts against certain concessions were always social and economic at that time

Britain and Russia conspired to divide Persia into different spheres of influence. By the time of World War I, the British would have the south part of Persia and the Russians the north. One of the major concessions made by Persia at this time would have lasting effects as the country gave an Anglo-Australian adventurer the right to find and remove petroleum and petroleum products, leading to the purchase of this concession by the British government and the creation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (Gelvin, 2005, p. 86).

The manipulations of the British and the Russians over Persia would have a lasting effect on several fronts but did not really settle the matter of Persia or give Persia more power through its developmentalism than was achieved elsewhere in the region. British involvement in the region in particular was solidified by the oil concession and would affect other similar arrangements in the region thereafter.

Identify three to five major problems faced by the Ottoman Empire in the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries. Describe the reforms of such people as Mehmet Ali and the Young Turks. To what extent were they successful in solving or alleviating the problems of the Ottoman Empire?

In the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire became the Sick Man of Europe as far as the West was concerned, and a number of reasons have been advanced to explain this change in the status of the Empire. Many of the reasons for the success of the Empire would later become reasons for its decline because they did not adapt well to changing circumstances. The Empire was first of all a huge military organization, ruled by military ideals and values. The Empire was highly centralized so that virtually all the land within the empire belonged to the Ottoman state. The state was feudal to the degree that much of the best land was allocated as fiefs to the Ottoman military aristocracy, but this land could be inherited in only rare cases. The Empire therefore never developed a European type of feudal nobility to balance the power of the monarch.

In the growing interaction with Europe, one of the primary reasons for the failure of the Ottoman Empire was financial. The vast resources of the Empire in an earlier era had been used to feed its conquering armies, an successive…