• Marian Kent


By the beginning of the twentieth century, European interests had already acquired important economic and political influence in the Ottoman Empire. The empire was vast in size, sprawling over the Near and Middle East from the Balkans to North Africa and the Arabian peninsula. The cost of administering so large an empire and subduing its dissident parts was never successfully met by what appeared to European observers to be a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy led by capricious and extravagant rulers. The empire had sunk more and more into debt to British and other European financiers. A large proportion of the national revenues was pledged to the foreign-organised Ottoman Public Debt Administration, in order to service old debts and stand surety for the raising of new revenue, which was then, as likely as not, used for military adventures.1 Although possessing great and largely untapped mineral, and therefore industrial, potential, the empire lacked the financial resources and technical expertise with which to develop its natural wealth and organise its own services. European investors could provide both, and concessions for a great variety of undertakings were easily obtained in return for loans and advances to the government, and baksheesh (gratuities) to its members.2 Even the Young Turk revolution of 1908–9, which removed Sultan Abdul Hamid and reimposed the old constitution, achieved little in the way of reforming and modernising the empire, and ‘degenerated into a kind of military oligarchy’, which ended with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 amid ‘failure, bitterness, and disappointment’.3


Middle East European Observer Natural Wealth Military Adventure National Revenue 
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  1. 12.
    Petroleum Imperial Policy Committee, Report of the Negotiations regarding the Petroleum Policy of H.M. Government 1918–1919, FO 371/2255, file 87900, S 347. See also graphs on UK Petroleum Imports 1900–19, and Sources of UK Petroleum Imports 1900–19, Appendix VIII below.Google Scholar

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© Marian Kent 1976

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  • Marian Kent

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