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The Middle Eastern region had been quiet and unknown until the Western world started to move into the area. The acceptable leadership was hereditary through kingdoms. The stronger nations used to conquer and occupy the weaker regions. The same happened when the Europeans ventured into the area. Western imperialism changed the political and economic dynamics of the Middle East.
Onset of Imperialism
At the height of the scramble for the Middle East countries, the Western powers first studied the region and also watched each other’s activities in the area. The major players used political imperialism to control major government decisions and economic imperialism that subdued the weaker nation’s financial prowess. They also used the cultural imperialism that made poorer countries adapt to the western lifestyle.
For hundreds of years before the 18th century, the majority of the areas of the world were equal in technology and economy. The developments that occurred later were spontaneous. It took many years for the innovations to become uniform over Asia and even European nations. Between the 1400 and 1700 years, most of the European kingdoms and nations began to use a set of related regulations to develop the regions. They institutionalized norms and agreements that led to relevant developments in the economy that were uniform.
In 1498, Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese navigator discovered a new route around the tip of southern Africa to India. It led the Europeans to expand their control of the trade routes and water territories. The overland trade routes middlemen of Arab origin begun to lose their jobs to people with European origin. The Europeans were producing better goods which were now acceptable in those regions. The handicraft productions began to lose market and the traders slowly lost their trade.
The loss of business by the Middle Eastern crafts led to the loss of taxes to the regional governments in the Middle East (Anderson, Seibert, & Wagner, 2011). The Middle Eastern leaders began to feel the negative economic impact of the European invasion into their region. The religious leaders started losing their impact on the people. As they took charge of the economic wellbeing of the area, they also advanced in weaponry and military technology.
The Ottoman Empire had vast lands that it controlled. It had extended its rule to Africa and the entire Middle East region. The leadership had wished away the influence of the European power in the area. The more they disregarded them, the more they gained influence through education, military strength, and trade. The Tulip period enabled the Ottoman elite to accept all the European products and ideologies. Within the empire, they built pleasure palaces with the French techniques, they wore Western clothes and used western mechanisms to create and build the empire.
The region slowly started to accept and praise European intellectual and capabilities. The skills and products that they could not accept fully, they infused them in their current systems. Selim III started reforms that would continue through his predecessor. Sultan Mahmud II had to build a new coalition and had to destroy the Janissaries who were resisting the changes.
The Tanzimat period saw a moment when the empire wanted to centralize the government. The leadership had previously relied on the autonomous regions to govern the entire kingdom. The provincial authorities had resisted any mechanism to reduce their autonomy over the treasury (Anderson, Seibert, & Wagner, 2011). However, the Tanzimat reforms involved the establishment of ministries, restructuring of the government to create a greater commitment to the central government.
The European powers continued to outdo each other in pleasing the Ottoman Empire. The leaders became corrupt. The struggle between appeasing the locals, and relying on the European technocrats was very confusing for the Sultans. Pressure from the citizens led to the birth of a constitution in 1876 under the leadership of Sultan Abdulhamit.
Egypt and Other Nations
Napoleon invaded Egypt seeking the French to convert it into France’s granary, control the Middle East military, and to threaten Britain in its India interests. Napoleon left after realizing that it was difficult fo France to rule from Egypt. A new leader of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, had learned the lessons of French’s superiority in military skills (Anderson, Seibert, & Wagner, 2011).
He invited the French to come and train his people on the skills. He also increased his artillery for war. He managed to contain all the rebellions of his time and became the supreme leader of the Egyptians. However, he weakened the parliamentary system, and some of his decisions were infamous. During his reign, the British built the Suez Canal and increased their trade with his jurisdiction. He also controlled the Levant and hence opened up the interior Lebanon nation. Due to his modernized military, security improved significantly, and trade flourished.
The rise of Iran and the Qajar dynasty was as a result of increased Western influence in the Middle East region. The Shia Muslims dominated the Persian area, and a lot of uprisings against British rule relied on the religious support (Anderson, Seibert, & Wagner, 2011). The Shias were against any secular authorities. At the fall of the Safavid empire, came the Qajar dynasty.
The 19th Century saw the increased activity in the Middle Eastern culture, politics, and military. The West wanted to spread their wings in this region, and they managed to get support from various empires. And hence, the society and culture of the citizens changed drastically.
Anderson, R., Seibert, R., & Wagner, J. (2011). Politics and change in the middle east (10th ed.). London, UK: Routledge.