Talk:Ottoman Empire

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Austria[edit]

Austria hasnever been part of the Ottoman empire — Preceding unsigned comment added by 79.244.63.126 (talk) 21:57, 29 October 2015 (UTC)

Parts of Austria was under the Ottoman Empire as evident by the Ottoman–Habsburg wars in 1520s and 1530s and the Little Hungary War. Alexis Ivanov (talk) 03:35, 30 October 2015 (UTC)

This is interesting: The Turks reached Vienna twice, so therefore parts of Austria were conquered. But were any parts of historical Austria (as opposed to parts of the Hapsburg empire) ever actually annexed by the Ottomans? Missaeagle (talk) 19:02, 5 August 2016 (UTC)

No, they weren't. I don't think it's reasonable to list Austria as having been part of the empire. No part of the country was ever integrated into the Ottoman administration. Chamboz (talk) 21:27, 5 August 2016 (UTC)

Text re partition is unclear[edit]

The current version includes this passage:

The [[Armistice of Mudros]], signed on 30 October 1918, and set the [[partition of the Ottoman Empire]] under the terms of the [[Treaty of Sèvres]]. This treaty, as designed in the [[Conference of London (1920)|conference of London]], allowed the Sultan to retain his position and title.

An armistice signed in 1918 supposedly "set" the partition under terms of a treaty that was still in the future and that, according to the Treaty of Sèvres article, wasn't even ratified? Maybe instead of "set" what's meant is "laid the groundwork for" or "later resulted in"? This should be clarified. JamesMLane t c 03:46, 22 November 2015 (UTC)

Morocco[edit]

Morocco wasn't in the ottoman empire. So i remove itAyOuBoXe (talk) 21:45, 26 December 2015 (UTC)

Parts of Morocco may have been Alexis Ivanov (talk) 05:58, 22 January 2016 (UTC)

Parts of Morocco was the name of my third jazz album. 2602:306:CCA7:81F0:DC18:75B6:5B14:1FF (talk) 13:48, 20 March 2016 (UTC)

You got any problems right there buddy? Alexis Ivanov (talk) 15:03, 20 March 2016 (UTC)

The Decline Paradigm[edit]

Wikipedia’s articles on the Ottomans are afflicted by a very serious problem. This is the problem of the Decline Paradigm. More than twenty years ago, historians of the Ottoman Empire came to the conclusion that the old formula used to write Ottoman history was flawed and unworkable. The old formula has come to be called “The Decline Paradigm,” and it said that the empire rose, reached an apex under the reign of Sultan Süleyman, and thereafter stagnated and declined until its eventual fall. Starting in the 70s and 80s, historians began to criticize this paradigm from every angle imaginable, and for two decades now there has existed a nearly universally established consensus among professional historians that in fact the Ottoman Empire did not enter a period of decline, but continued to be a vigorous and versatile state long after the death of Sultan Süleyman, throughout the periods which had previously been labeled “stagnation” and “decline.” In other words, the so-called “Decline of the Ottoman Empire” was a myth.

Yet, despite this scholarly consensus, Wikipedia’s entire framework for presenting Ottoman history to the general public is written using the Decline Paradigm. Whatever the reason - be it the frequent citation of horribly outdated and inappropriate sources like Lord Kinross’ The Ottoman Centuries (1977), or the possibility that many editors are unfamiliar with the modern academic works - Wikipedia has failed to generate an accurate picture of Ottoman history. Wikipedia’s presentation of Ottoman history, and thus the presentation which thousands or even millions of regular people see when they set out to learn about the Ottomans for the first time, is that of the outdated Decline Paradigm, universally rejected by scholars and regarded as a backwards trope of past historiography. This merits a major rewrite, a thorough re-examination of how Ottoman history is written here in the face of modern scholarship.

Some quotations from historians about the Decline Paradigm in Ottoman history:

1. Rifa’at ‘Ali Abou-El-Haj, Formation of the Modern State: The Ottoman Empire, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries 2nd Ed. (Syracuse University Press, 2005), pp. 3-4.

“A noteworthy example [of a non-specialist writing comparative history that includes the Ottomans] is Perry Anderson, who in a book focused on European absolutist states, has included a chapter on the Ottoman Empire… Anderson goes further, picking up the traditional Orientalist theme of Ottoman decline and attributing it to the usual external causes… It should be pointed out than in Anderson’s defense that he is not a specialist in Early Modern Ottoman history, and he has arrived at his simplistic and narrow explanation of Ottoman affairs by faithfully following the available secondary literature. As a consequence, he winds up doing something that was not necessarily a part of his original intention, namely, reinforcing regressive paradigms through the reintroduction, in what seems to be totally new garb, of the same old clichéd interpretations of Ottoman history.” 


In Abou-El-Haj’s words, Decline is “clichéd,” “Orientalist,” “regressive,” “simplistic,” and “narrow.” It is not true history.

2. Howard, Douglas A. “Genre and myth in the Ottoman advice for kings literature,” in Aksan, Virginia H. and Daniel Goffman eds. The Early Modern Ottomans: Remapping the Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2007; 2009), 143.

“Twentieth-century Anglo-American scholarly interest in the nasihatname, however, was due in no small measure to the role of these works in reinforcing an important modern historiographical metanarrative: the rise and fall of civilizations that culminated in the rise of western civilization. The cultural significance of this story in the twentieth century, communicated to millions of Americans through the university "Western Civ" course, can hardly be overstated. In the metanarrative of rise and fall, the decline of Islamic civilization coincided with the rise of modern western civilization, and the decadent Islamic world became the main foil of the new and vigorous West and its nations... Especially after 1978 in the United States academic historians, motivated partly by appeals to a standard of verisimilitude that required a corrective to the older historical metanarrative, increasingly became preoccupied with refuting the Ottoman decline as an untrue myth.” 

Douglas Howard explains the role that Decline played in Western self-conception, and the emergence of the anti-Decline historiographical movement in the seventies. He originally wrote this article in 1988, and opposition to the Decline Thesis has since expanded from just the United States to be supported by the whole of Western academia.

3. Suraiya Faroqhi, The Ottoman Empire and the World Around it (I. B. Tauris, 2007; 2011), pp. 42-3.

“These expectations and assumptions [of decline] permeate many European archival sources dealing with the history of the sultanic domains. Since these materials usually became accessible to researchers long before their counterparts in the Ottoman archives, it is not surprising that they have left profound traces in the relevant historiography. This impact was reinforced by the fact that early republican historiography in Turkey also was much inclined to dwell on Ottoman 'corruption' and 'decline'.”

The idea of Decline permeated the European conception of the Ottomans, and thus it is logical that older histories, written before the Ottoman archives were opened to research, have this distorted view of the empire.

4. “Introduction: The Myth of Decline,” in Linda Darling, Revenue Raising and Legitimacy: Tax Collection and Finance Administration in the Ottoman Empire, 1560-1660 (1993) pp. 1-2.

“Specialists have become skeptical of this decline paradigm, feeling that it fails to explain Ottoman transformation and change. It is teleological; because we know that eventually the Ottomans became a weaker power and finally disappeared, every earlier difficulty they experienced becomes a "seed of decline," and Ottoman successes and sources of strength vanish from the record.” 

The whole first chapter of Linda Darling’s book is entitled “The Myth of Decline,” and is devoted to combating the Decline thesis. She summarizes the historical literature which was then disproving that thesis. This was back in 1993!

5. Jane Hathaway, The Arab Lands under Ottoman Rule 1517-1800 (2008) pp. 7-8.

“One of the most momentous changes to have occurred in Ottoman studies since the publication of Egypt and the Fertile Crescent (1966) is the deconstruction of the so-called 'Ottoman decline thesis' - that is, the notion that toward the end of the sixteenth century, following the reign of Sultan Suleyman I (1520-66), the empire entered a lengthy decline from which it never truly recovered, despite heroic attempts at westernizing reforms in the nineteenth century. Over the last twenty years or so, as Chapter 4 will point out, historians of the Ottoman Empire have rejected the narrative of decline in favor of one of crisis and adaptation: after weathering a wretched economic and demographic crisis in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the Ottoman Empire adjusted its character from that of a military conquest state to that of a territorially more stable, bureaucratic state whose chief concern was no longer conquering new territories but extracting revenue from the territories it already controlled while shoring up its image as the bastion of Sunni Islam.” 

Jane Hathaway clearly notes that “historians of the Ottoman Empire have rejected the narrative of decline.” Not just that she personally has, but that all Ottomanist historians have done so, collectively.

6. Leslie Pierce, “Changing Perceptions of the Ottoman Empire: the Early Centuries,” Mediterranean Historical Review 19/1 (2004): 22.

“Scholarship of past [30] years has liberated the post-Süleymanic period from the straightjacket of decline in which every new phenomenon was seen as corruption of pristine ‘classical’ institutions.”

Leslie Pierce, 11 years after her previously cited book, says definitively that scholarship has been “liberated” from decline.

7. Metin Kunt, “Introduction to Part I,” in Süleyman the Magnificent and His Age: the Ottoman Empire in the Early Modern World, ed. Metin Kunt and Christine Woodhead (London and New York: Longman, 1995), 37-38.

“…students of Ottoman history have learned better than to discuss a “decline” which supposedly began during the reigns of Süleyman’s “ineffectual” successors and then continued for centuries. Süleyman’s sons and grandsons, as sultans, merely continued in the same detached imperial tradition that was first fashioned during Süleyman’s long reign. As for broader institutional and social fluctuations and dislocations, these are properly to be seen as features of a transition which eventually reached a new equilibrium in the seventeenth century. The “time of troubles” may have seemed of millennial significance to Ottomans themselves; we should see its features rather as aspects of the Ottoman effort to confront the challenges of a changing and widening world, beyond their frontiers and experience.”

Metin Kunt, more than twenty years ago, here repeats what the previous historians cited here were saying: historians have learned better than to speak of decline. Decline is a theory which has been disproven and abandoned.

8. Baki Tezcan, The Second Ottoman Empire: Political and Social Transformation in the Early Modern World (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 9.

“Ottomanist historians have produced several works in the last decades, revising the traditional understanding of this period from various angles, some of which were not even considered as topics of historical inquiry in the mid-twentieth century. Thanks to these works, the conventional narrative of Ottoman history – that in the late sixteenth century the Ottoman Empire entered a prolonged period of decline marked by steadily increasing military decay and institutional corruption – has been discarded.” 

Tezcan doesn’t say that the Decline Theory is being challenged. He doesn’t say it’s being debated. He says it has been “discarded.” It is no longer considered acceptable history. It is wrong. And Wikipedia must change the way it writes Ottoman history as a result.

Chamboz (talk) 17:53, 26 July 2016 (UTC)

'Further Reading' book list[edit]

I recently trimmed the book list under 'Further Reading' to remove non-academic sources. This was reverted by @Rjensen:, who said to "keep relevant books by established publishers. Wiki appeals to advanced students and also to general readers who want popular books not heavy monographs." While this is true in theory, it's not a good justification on its own. Just because a book has been published by an "established publisher" does not mean it is considered accurate, particularly if it is very old, as is Kinross' book The Ottoman Centuries (1977). Also, just because a book is academic does not mean that it's a "heavy monograph." It is entirely possible for us to recommend modern popular books which are written by specialists in their field, such as Caroline Finkel's Osman's Dream (2005). This ensures that our readers are exposed to accurate and up to date perspectives on Ottoman history and the tired old stereotypes which so often appear in books written by non-specialists are not perpetuated. It's harmful, not helpful, to recommend pop-history - especially in its current form, where the pop-history and academic history are placed side by side as if they were equal. Chamboz (talk) 07:30, 4 August 2016 (UTC)

the criteria used by non-scholars is how good is the book to read. Goodwin for example takes 4 and 5 stars in the reviews as a triumph in that regard. One Johns Hopkins professor says in NY TIMES "Jason Goodwin, a gifted English travel writer and journalist, has gone back over the material of the Ottoman Empire, and returned with a work of dazzling beauty." How many of the scholarly tomes would pass the dazzling beauty test?? Chamboz should read the reviews a little more closely. Aksan for example says, "Those who have the temerity to jump into the Ottoman longue durée waters are few and far between, partly because it is difficult to cover over six hundred years of history, and partly because of the minefields that await the unwary, in ethno-religious sensitivities and national myths. Little has been published to replace the late Stanford Shaw's two-volume work, The History of Turkey, or even Lord Kinross's The Ottoman Centuries, which has also been reissued." That sounds like an endorsement if you want a long-term perspective in one book and are not prepared to read scholarly journals. I think there is an assumption by Chamboz here that the value of a book depends entirely on whether it rejects one particular aspect of Ottoman History (re the "decline-and-fall model"). That sounds like a new graduate student who has just taken his first seminar in historiography. The decline-fall model applies to only one of many aspects of the Ottoman Empire, and making it the sole criteria is in my opinion too narrow a perspective for Wikipedia. Save it for a scholarly article instead of imposing it here. If a book is very good on colorful description or psychological insight or wars or economics or arts or religion or society --well too bad, out it must go if it flunks test #1. Except maybe for Finkel, Osman's Dream i suspect ALL books available to a popular audience flunk his one and only test. That is this proposed criterion basically rejects all of popular history and expels all of the Wiki readers who want colorful, lively highly readable books rather than advanced technical monographs or journal articles. The fact is the scholarly books are NOT appropriate for most Wiki readers without advanced training in history--they are too hard to read and impossible to enjoy. Rjensen (talk) 08:13, 4 August 2016 (UTC)
Unfortunately, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, and that means you can’t use entertainment value as the primary method of analyzing a source’s quality. A book’s star rating has little to do with its factual accuracy. Your John Hopkins professor reviewing Goodwin’s book (Fouad Ajami) was not a historian of the Ottoman Empire, but a writer on contemporary Middle Eastern affairs. Why should a review by a non-specialist be taken as evidence that the source is sound? And on that topic, it’s interesting that you didn’t type the next sentence in Virginia Aksan's review, because in it she explicitly dismisses Goodwin’s book as nothing more than a “fictionalized oriental tale.” (p. 112). In the sentence after that she praises Caroline Finkel’s book as the necessary replacement for Kinross and Shaw. She’s giving the opposite of an endorsement to those two books – she’s saying they need to be replaced!
Leaving that aside, your strawman characterization of me is totally uncalled for. Yes, I oppose the decline thesis because practically everyone who specializes Ottoman history opposes the decline thesis. That doesn’t mean it’s the only yardstick by which I measure the worth of historical works. My goal is just to get the modern view of Ottoman history onto Wikipedia. Its history articles shouldn’t be based on outdated sources and pop-history, just like its science articles shouldn’t be based on outdated sources and pop-science. This should not be a controversial idea.
As I said before, academic does not mean “advanced, technical monographs.” Academic historians can and do write books which are accessible to a general audience. These books are available, and we should be recommending them. We should not be recommending books which were published forty years ago and are widely recognized as being outdated. We should not be recommending books which have been characterized by professionals as “fictionalized oriental tales.” This is just common sense. Chamboz (talk) 08:56, 4 August 2016 (UTC)
I think you mix up the role of the footnotes (which is to be up to date & Scholarly) and the Further Reading, which is to guide non-expert readers. Readers who are Ottoman Experts certainly do not need it! But Wikipedia has a few hundred million readers we have to serve. They want one or two readable books they can understand and appreciate without a grounding in historiography or linguistics. They will not get them from experts I fear: the statement that Academic historians can and do write books which are accessible to a general audience. is refuted easily enough in the Ottoman case: "Ottoman historians have rarely stirred themselves to write for a general audience." [Finkel p xi] and Those who have the temerity to jump into the Ottoman longue durée waters are few and far between [Aksan]. So who are the beautiful writers and thrilling story tellers you are recommending for the general reader? Rjensen (talk) 10:57, 4 August 2016 (UTC)
If what people want is “one or two readable books they can understand and appreciate,” why is the “Further reading” list 27 items long? This serves only to confuse people. Readers are given the impression that the outdated and orientalist Kinross is just as highly recommended as Finkel, when the latter is in fact a total replacement for the former. Aksan says “little has been written,” not “nothing has been written.” Aside from Finkel, M. Şükrü Hanioğlu’s A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire (2008) is another narrative-based history. Also worth mentioning is Jane Hathaway’s The Arab Lands under Ottoman Rule 1516-1800 (2008). Both were not yet published when Aksan wrote the above-mentioned review. And in light of that review, I am at least removing Goodwin and Kinross’ books from the list. As you’ve seen, the former is looked upon negatively while the latter is replaced by Finkel. Chamboz (talk) 17:40, 4 August 2016 (UTC)
popular readers are limited by what's available in their library and by popular vs scholarly writing style. Pop readers usually want broad topics with a focus on good writing & well illustrated. geography is important (lots of them planning a first trip). they like people and events not deep trends or statistical tables. Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire starts about 1790, missing most of the history. it's quite advanced & is focused on intellectual history & ideology--which I suggest are not popular topics--ie not a book to recommend to your next door neighbor. The Arab Lands under Ottoman Rule 1516-1800 is narrowly about an offbeat topic: the Arab minority [Egypt & Syria etc] & ignores the main stream of the Empire. Neither book is notable for colorful writing or story-telling. (H-Net said, Arab Lands neither offers the general reader a coherent survey of the history of the ‘Arab Lands’, nor does it contribute much to scholarship, of which her other works abound.) It just goes to show that specialists avoid writing the one big book that covers the whole history of the whole Empire. Rjensen (talk) 18:08, 4 August 2016 (UTC)
So your criticism of the other recommendations, in short, is that they are not identical to Finkel's Osman's Dream. Yes, it's true, Finkel's book is the only modern single-volume history of the empire written by an academic. When we have such a well-received book, which is both factually accurate and highly readable for a general audience, what is the merit to recommending by its side the older and outdated histories it has come to replace? Why must a history book encompass the entire chronological and geographical span of the empire's history in order to fit into your conception of what the popular reader wants? Is it not possible for the general reader to be interested only in the empire's recent history, or only in its impact on the Arab Middle East, in light of recent events? Douglas Howard discusses the issue of Ottoman history for a popular audience in his 2004 review "Three Recent Ottoman Histories," and further recommends Daniel Goffman's The Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe, (2002), saying it's likely to be of great interest to general readers. It is, however, not a survey of the entire history of the empire from start to finish and from Hungary to Yemen. Would that disqualify it from being recommended here? Chamboz (talk) 18:32, 4 August 2016 (UTC)
Anyway, since you haven't reverted my latest edit, I assume you're okay with the removal of Kinross and Goodwin, in which case I'm satisfied with it for now. It might be good to try to reform this list at some point in the future, so we can provide good suggestions for whatever category of book the reader might want to find - right now it's almost random. But the most important thing was the removal of those particularly egregious titles, which has been done. Chamboz (talk) 19:29, 4 August 2016 (UTC)