An Anti-Imperialist Empire Ottoman Lessons on the Nature of 19th Century World Order
An AntiImperialist Empire
Ottoman Lessons on the Nature of 19th Century World Order
The experiences of the Ottoman elites in preserving, expanding or ending a nonWestern (and thus nonwhite or nonChristian) empire during the long 19th century teaches us invaluable lessons about the nature of modern imperialism. What was new and unique about the empires of the postCongress of Vienna era compared to the imperial tradition of the medieval and early modern periods? How important were the race and Christian identity of the European Empires for the legitimacy structures of late 19th century imperial world order? Relying on Ottoman writings on empire, imperialism, the West and civilization, this paper discusses globally circulating nations of imperial legitimacy during the longnineteenth century. The Ottoman Empire had a several centuries long legacy of imperial tradition over a large multiethnic and multireligious territory before the 19th century. In the two decades after the Congress of Vienna, however, Ottoman elites recognized the need to transform their empire according to what they perceived as new notions of power and legitimacy. As they reshaped an experienced empire into the requirements of the 'standards of civilization' to make it an equal member in the globally interconnected family of empires of the 19th century, they had to reflect on the significance of Christianity in the legitimacy claims of fellow empires. Especially after the shift to a more aggressive, racially and religious defined, era of high imperialism in the last quarter of the 20th century, Ottoman elite?s reflections prompted them to ally with antiimperialist nationalist intellectuals in the colonized world in the global debates over the key legitimizing notions of race, civilization, nationality, progress and world history. One result of these reflections was the further delegitimization of the imperial world order, especially by the antiimperialist encouragements of the various competing empires during WWI, best seen in the PanIslamic campaign of the Ottoman government.
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