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Ottoman Reform In Syria And Palestine, 1840 1861: The Impact Of The Tanzimat On Politics And Society

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17 review for Ottoman Reform In Syria And Palestine, 1840 1861: The Impact Of The Tanzimat On Politics And Society

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Moshe Ma’oz’s Ottoman Reform in Syria and Palestine is an examination of the changes in Greater Syria that occurred during the Tanzimat period, but his work begins with a look at the Egyptian occupation from 1831 through 1840. Through a combination of administrative innovations and military force, Muhammad Ali managed to strip power from local leaders, but in doing so engendered a great deal of resistance from the population. The Egyptian infusion of infrastructure and economic security into the Moshe Ma’oz’s Ottoman Reform in Syria and Palestine is an examination of the changes in Greater Syria that occurred during the Tanzimat period, but his work begins with a look at the Egyptian occupation from 1831 through 1840. Through a combination of administrative innovations and military force, Muhammad Ali managed to strip power from local leaders, but in doing so engendered a great deal of resistance from the population. The Egyptian infusion of infrastructure and economic security into the region might have appeased the lower classes, but hostility was roused by conscription, oppressive taxation systems, the introduction of secular law, the arrival of European culture, and the granting of equality to Christians. Ma’oz argues that most significant result of Egyptian rule in Syria was that it opened up possibilities for further reform under the Tanzimat, although he repeatedly returns to the successes of the former as a metric for the failures of the latter. The Ottoman Empire was not immediately successful in implementing, or even maintaining, reforms and the power of local leaders began to re-emerge with the departure of Muhammad Ali. The Tanzimat era, which sought to reform administration, welfare, and the status of non-Muslims, brought two major challenges to sharia law: the equality of Ottoman subjects and a secular legal code. This led to resistance on multiple levels across the empire and thus enactment of these reforms during the 1840s was sporadic, particularly in Greater Syria. The exigencies of the Crimean War, however, coupled with the need to impress European powers provided a greater impetus for reform that lasted until the death of Sultan Abdelmecid. In the Syrian case, establishing stable government required substantial military support, and thus the central government’s ability to organize troops in the region determined the amount of tranquility it was able to facilitate. The overall ineffectiveness of the Ottoman military during much of this period, in addition to the civil service’s inability to overcome issues of efficiency and corruption, had a deleterious effect on the central government’s ability to administer and control Syria during this era. Their inability to eliminate tax farming or institute regular conscription meant that the power of the local leaders never deteriorated to the extent that it had under Egyptian rule. Local councils, or meclis, based on earlier provincial governing bodies known as divan, were established by Muhammad Ali and possessed a high degree of organization and representation. The Ottoman attempt to maintain these structures, however, were unsuccessful and they lost a significant degree of their representative power, and they were filled instead by ulama and other urban notables. The powers these councils controlled were broadened under the sultan’s rule, allowing the upper classes to widen the gap between themselves and the lower classes. With the meclis controlled by Muslims, an inevitable increase in sectarian tension soon followed. In order to control urban centers, the central government had to resort to playing rival groups against each other, a dangerous strategy that brought only a modicum of stability to the system. In the countryside, where Ottoman control bordered on inexistent, the main tactic of undermining local military capabilities and playing factions against each other experienced only limited success. As for the problem of Bedouin raiders, strategies during the 1840s and 1850s were as ineffective as they were inconsistent, and it was not until systematic and consistent policies for offensive and defense were established that the Ottomans were able to achieve any tangible measure of security. The situation in the towns improved throughout the 1850s as the Tanzimat reforms strengthened human and legal rights and weakened the power of the sharia courts, but fair access to the judicial system remained elusive. In the economic realm, however, there was little progress. Local authorities made the indestructible tax-farming system unbearable for the peasants, leading to land desertion on a massive scale. Despite advancements in military and prestige projects, general public works improvements were scarce, currency was unstable, and banks failed on a considerable scale. Trade with Europe expanded during the Tanzimat era, albeit at the cost of local industry, and coastal towns, as well as those in the interior that are safe and fertile, flourished. Sectarian tensions were amplified as reforms intended to impose “Ottoman equality” were introduced. Ma’oz concludes that an overall greater freedom of worship and an expansion of opportunities for non-Muslims were fostered during this era, but there were still significant restrictions and outbreaks of violence that succeeded in curtailing reforms were not uncommon. European intervention into these affairs only made matters worse, while the 1856 Hatti-I Humayun, which was unequivocal in its declaration of equality, led to a period of increased sectarian violence that culminated in the 1860 Damascus Massacre. Ma’oz’s overall assessment seems to be that, while advances were made in the Syrian region during the Tanzimat era, most of the reforms came up short in some fashion, and many failed completely. He concludes his study with the aftermath of the Damascus Massacre: Christians emigrated from Aleppo and Damascus and the central government established common institutions, as well as government schools. The simultaneous expansion of missionary schools, which nurtured a revival of the Arabic language, came together with other developments to form the basis of Arab nationalism. Thus Ma’oz concludes that the ultimate result of the Tanzimat reforms in Arab lands was the realization among Syrians that they would need a secular common ground to survive. He further contends that Syria had a harsher experience during this period than other places in the empire. Ottoman Reform in Syria and Palestine does have its limitations, such as the lack of attention paid to Lebanon or the effect of educational developments, and reflects the heavy reliance on European reports in noticeable ways, such as downplaying Arab sectarian grievances (or at least the failure to analyze the on a deeper level). Considering its age, however, one gets the feeling that these issues are, to a significant degree, a product of limited access to sources. No matter what the case, Ma’oz’s work has yet to be surpassed, or even recapitulated, in four and a half decades and thus the extensive survey he provides on Ottoman reform in the Arab provinces remains unmatched. It is an invaluable tool for historians seeking to better understand the dynamics of Ottoman reform during the Tanzimat era, and is unique in situating this analysis within the contention that the Arab experience differed notably from that of the Turkish regions of the empire.

  2. 5 out of 5

    esra

    A well searched study

  3. 5 out of 5

    Safiah

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elçin Arabacı

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

  6. 4 out of 5

    Enis Cengiz

  7. 4 out of 5

    Laial

  8. 5 out of 5

    Martin Mills

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alam

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mika Nur

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mustapha Idris

  12. 4 out of 5

    Subayyal Ilyas

  13. 4 out of 5

    Wajahat Mirza

  14. 4 out of 5

    Yahya

  15. 5 out of 5

    Fırat

  16. 5 out of 5

    Meryem Yiğit

  17. 5 out of 5

    Krzysiek (Chris)

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