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Ottoman Empire in World History Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 8th, 2021

Place of the Ottoman Empire in the World

The Ottoman Empire holds a special place in the history of major global democracies and economies such as Great Britain. The main reason for this is the fact that Britain had stakes in India, Egypt, and the Mediterranean all of which were under significant impact from the Ottoman Empire. There was an urgent need for Britain to protect their commercial welfare by reducing the influence over its territories. “The new Mediterranean empire was not a creation of economic imperialism in any simple sense. It was part of a geopolitical effort, which encompassed but should not be reduced to economic motives.

The British wanted the Mediterranean to be mare nostrum, subject to the rule of law and safe for international commerce. They also wanted to make the new colonies pay by expanding trade in British manufactures, Maltese cotton, and currants from the Greek Islands “(Bayly,104). The Ottomans had started having their own struggles as calls for independence gained momentum in the first years of the 19 Century.

Their influence continued to reduce in the mid 19 Century when they faced numerous defeats by Russia. This created loopholes within the empire that were quickly exploited by revolts who sought a quick commencement to the succession plan (Parry, 329-330). This created more time for the rise of Russian power in its major territories. This was not impressive to some members of the European Union, as they felt the Ottoman Empire was in need of quick intervention. Besides, they felt the threat of Russia’s rise (Bayly, 194). The intervention efforts were led by France and Great Britain who also wanted to protect their numerous interests in the Ottoman Empire.

Great Britain’s interest in the Ottoman Empire

The stability of the empire was crucial to the financial, commercial, and diplomatic objectives of Great Britain. Britain had loaned money to the Turkish government on several occasions and made a number of direct investments, hence the need to ensure its stability. The strong desire by Great Britain to increase its investments convinced the Turkish authorities to open their navigation routes in India (Parry, 329-330).

Britain’s interests in maintaining the stability of the Ottoman Empire were heightened following the realization that France was also mounting its own invasion in the territory, which would make it hard for them owing to the fact that Russia also had similar intentions (Bayly, 103). At the time, the recently opened Suez Canal made the Ottoman Empire more attractive, as the European nations tried to gain control over it. This was heightened by the push for liberalism and nationalism across members of the European Union, who felt the need to promote the ideology of free competition and a self-regulating market.

Britain felt that the Ottoman Empire was not in a good place to embrace a political orientation favoring social progress through reforms and creating new laws instead of choosing the revolutionary path. They felt that protecting the sovereignty of the people was more urgent that promoting the revolution because the Ottoman’s were very unstable and easy targets for the likes of France and Russia (Ferguson, 230).

However, the Russians were in for a harder task because Great Britain had already offered its support to the Ottomans regardless of the fact that they discredited it (Judd, 93). The reason for this was the role that the Ottoman’s believed Britain played in the killing of Bulgarians (Parry, 329-330). The Ottoman Empire dominated the policy formulations of Great Britain as they sought to tighten their grip on existing markets.

One of the policies that Britain pushed successfully was the Anglo-Turkish convention of 1883, which enabled it to enjoy low trading tariffs, increase its exports to Turkey, and acquire high favorable status. “Reduced tariffs, gave Britain most- favored- nation status and resulted in dramatically increased British export to Turkey, especially cotton, over the next fifteen years” (Parry, 154).

Russia and France become Great Britain’s competitors

The Anglo-European conflict is another contest that attracted the interests of both France and Russia. After finding it hard to fight off the control of Great Britain over the Ottoman Empire, France decided to engage them on different fronts as a way of reducing their influence. This was during the era of Napoleon, who had become the French emperor in 1769. The attacks led by Napoleon were directly aimed at Great Britain, regardless of the past friendly history between the two countries. During the Crimean War and the Amien Convention, the closeness of the two colonial powers was evident because they had common interests.

One of the main tactics used by Napoleon was closing the major trading routes used by Great Britain (Parry, 234). However, he failed to understand that this move was costly because it forced Britain to focus more on the Ottoman Empire at the expense of both France and Russia. The French also ventured into Egyptian territories as a way of destabilizing the business network of Great Britain along the Mediterranean.

However, Britain launched its own response by sending navy troops to the Egyptian coast and the Arab Gulf. They were not willing to abandon their control over the territory because it provided a safe trading route into India. “Anglo-French rivalry eventually culminated in a hostile encounter in the remote interior of Africa, at Fashoda on the Nile in 1898″ (Hyam, 105). The failure of France to take control over Egypt marked the fall of Napoleon. He left France with no other option than looking elsewhere for territories, which they found in Algeria after successfully invading them in 1830.

Great Britain had two major concerns with the ideologies applied by Napoleon (Levine, 91). The first one was his foreign policy of extending the rule over foreign countries in an aggressive manner. They felt that France had other options of taking control over their territories apart from the aggression that caused pain to many people. The second one was his support for radicalization, which threatened to cause a lot of instability among its neighbors such as Ireland. Britain believed in the principle of balanced power, thus the reason they fought so hard to maintain the status quo.

This was one of the main reasons behind the prolonged political stability in the Ottoman Empire because there was no space for a few individuals who wanted to have unregulated control over the public resources.

Great Britain’s try to oppose

One of the biggest successes of Great Britain was the Crimean war, which enabled it to suppress the growing threat of Russia (Judd, 101). They had also managed to contain France following the assassination of Napoleon III, although they were under the threat of a revenge mission from them. However, Britain was greatly concerned when the Ottoman state and Egypt declared bankruptcy in 1874. In a bid to rescue them from the economic quagmire, Ismail Pasha, who was the ruler of Egypt at the time sought to make a few changes to the city to match those across Europe in a bid to attract investors (Levine, 91).

This heightened the interests of France in Egypt, much to the displeasure of Britain who felt highly threatened. However, the French once again failed to gain their desired space within the Egyptian territory. As this was happening, the Russians had made a reasonable push for the Indian route that the Britons used for trade. ” The build-up of the Russian military presence in Central Asia in the 1860s and 1870s intensified fears in India, though the Russians never, in fact, got even as close as Afghanistan” (Levine, 96).

Russia was slowly becoming a major concern to Great Britain, as evidenced through its foreign policies. They were the main champions for a political system where one individual would hold unlimited authority over their respective jurisdictions. Such a political system would jeopardize all the investments that Great Britain had made in India, China, and the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, greater focus was directed to Russia at the time. Reports indicate that Russia was willing to do anything as long as it managed to break the trading cycle enjoyed by Great Britain with its major territories. “Russia had entered a critical phase in its pursuit of world power” (Darwin, 30)


Understandably, Great Britain had two major soft spots that Russia had the chance to exploit. They were the Ottoman and Chinese empires. These two territories were so precious to Britain, to the extent that they were willing to invest any amount of resources to protect. Their stability ensured the ability of Great Britain to continue having unsettled dominance over their counterparts. However, the poor resource capacity of the Russians did not pose any meaningful threat to warrant any sort of military intervention (Parry, 212).

Historians argue that Russia made it too easy for Britain to suppress their numerous efforts by the fact that they did not focus on any main territory. On the other hand, Great Britain had a well-organized strategy that allowed them to manage their challengers with ease. In Asia, they were mainly fighting the challenge of Russia who was seeking to invade their territories in India and China. In Africa, Britain faced the biggest challenges from Germany and France (Parry, 212).

One of the main elements that dominated all the activities carried out by Great Britain was the need to protect their trade interests. Interestingly, the Russians and the French did not find it necessary to identify their own territories but instead chose to invade the ones that had started to develop. The Ottoman Empire played a crucial role in the emergence of Great Britain as a colonial powerhouse, which allowed it to subjugate the world to its values and ideologies.

The superpower status attained by Great Britain could not be easily achieved by any other European country, despite the fact that they also had foreign investments. France and Russia were the closest competitors of Great Britain (Porter, 90-91). The good relationship between Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire played out to the disadvantage of the two nations, as they unsuccessfully tried to gain a share of their market. Although France tried to block the trade routes used by Britain across Europe, the fact that the latter enjoyed strong control over the Ottoman territory was enough to maintain the status quo.

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