The Ottoman Empire and its Precedents from the Perspective of English School Theory
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The Ottoman Empire was the major political configuration in the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe from the sixteenth century until its demise after the First World War. Only Morocco, Iran and parts of the Arabian peninsula remained outside its boundaries. It was thus not merely a Middle Eastern entity but a major power player within Europe and the Mediterranean whether officially recognised as such or not in the popular Westphalian model. However, to be ‘in’ Europe was not necessarily to be ‘of’ Europe and, as an Islamic empire, the Ottoman state’s identity was rooted within a matrix of concepts including that of universal Muslim society (the umma), unified Muslim religio-political authority in the form of the caliphate, and the primordial global distinction between the lands of Islam (dar al-islam) and the lands of war or unbelief (dar al-harb, dar al-kufr). It was also influenced by Turco-Mongol attitudes to politics and society including Ghuzz and Chinghiz Khanid universalism. Nonetheless, the application and understanding of these concepts varied greatly and Ottoman political praxis recognised a multiplicity of independent political entities, Muslim and non-Muslim, which engaged in war, made treaties of various kinds and allowed cross-border trade. Arguably, the Empire, its dependencies and neighbouring Muslim states formed a sub-global interstate society within a larger interstate system that included European as well as Muslim states in which the Ottoman Empire was a central pivot.
KeywordsMiddle East Sixteenth Century European State Muslim Community World Society
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