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Military reform and the problem of centralization in the Ottoman empire
in the eighteenth century
Avigdor Levy

To cite this Article Levy, Avigdor(1982) 'Military reform and the problem of centralization in the Ottoman empire in the
eighteenth century', Middle Eastern Studies, 18: 3, 227 — 249
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/00263208208700508


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Military Reform and the Problem of Centralization
in the Ottoman Empire in the Eighteenth Century
Avigdor Levy

A number of modern studies discuss eighteenth-century Ottoman military
reform from the perspective of its relevance to the processes of modernization
which the Ottoman empire and republican Turkey underwent in the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This approach has its merits.
Occasionally, however, it has come close to a 'heroes and villains'
interpretation of Ottoman history. Some works may not say as much
explicitly, but by highlighting the 'progressive' aspects of military reform they
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suggest that an ongoing conflict between reform and conservatism was the
central theme of Ottoman political development in the eighteenth century.
Based on this approach a non-specialist could conclude that whenever reform
failed it was due to not much more than 'the adamant conservatism of the
Janissaries and ulema\x
Moreover, since students of Ottoman history have become preoccupied
with this theme, other significant aspects of military reform have received only
little attention. In Armies and Societies in Europe, 1494-1789, Andre Corvisier
discusses the emergence of the modern military and makes the following
The subject goes well beyond the frame of the army itself. In effect, the
army was a special domain, one in which the sovereign authority first
prevailed; and military administration . . . served in many ways as a
proving ground for other governmental operations. In every case the
State had to overome obstacles in order to create effective armies.2
Students of Ottoman military institutions would surely find these remarks
highly evocative. True, the Ottoman empire was subject to conditions and
developments which differed considerably from those prevailing in the
European states forming the subject of Corvisier's study. But the basic issues
and tensions of state-military relations appear remarkably similar.
Ottoman military reform, like that of contemporary European states, was
motivated and shaped by a combination of external and internal factors.
From the second half of the seventeenth century external challenges had
become increasingly more threatening. Repeated military defeats resulting in
permanent territorial losses fully exposed the inferiority of Ottoman arms in
the face of expansionist European enemies. If it were to survive at all, the
Ottoman empire was in urgent need to upgrade its armed forces. At the same
time there were strong internal incentives for military reform.
Ottoman society consisted of a multitude of overlapping, self-administering
entities, such as religious communities {millets) and brotherhoods with their
state-wide hierarchies, local guilds and urban and rural parishes. During its
zenith, from the mid-fifteenth century through most of the sixteenth, the State
controlled this highly variegated social order mainly through the means of a

centralized bureaucracy, a quasi-feudal (timarh) fighting class and a paid,
standing army. The keystone of this political order was a well-defined central
authority at the pinnacle of which stood the sultan and his deputy, the grand
vezir. Inherent to the Ottoman social order was a high potential for political
decentralization and even fragmentation. But a succession of capable and
active rulers insured the predominance of the Center and the effective
operation of the system as a whole.3
Then, following the death of Suleiman the Magnificent, in 1566, dynastic
instability and weakness set in. Not all of Suleiman's successors were
incompetent, as is sometimes suggested, but a sufficient number did fit the
description. The first half of the seventeenth century, a period in which four
sultans were enthroned while still minors, was particularly unstable. Now
power was increasingly exercised by competing members of the royal family,
courtiers and favorites. This, in turn, led to a growing fragmentation of the
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central authority and intensified factionalism among the ruling elite as a
whole. The chains of authority having become blurred, central control over
the bureaucracy and the military weakened, corruption abounded and strong
centrifugal forces emerged.4
It is now generally accepted that in addition to dynastic difficulties,
Ottoman decline was the outcome of several clusters of interrelated factors —
economic, demographic, technological, military, political and so forth. Some
of these have not been fully explained, as yet, while others are the subject of
ongoing controversy. In general, students of Ottoman history are at pains to
distinguish the primary from the secondary causes. By contrast, however, the
works of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Ottoman writers suggest that
the contemporaries had a more definite view of the causes of Ottoman decline.
Their works indicate a general belief that the state still possessed the necessary
resources, human and material, to hold its ground, although, perhaps, not to
recapture its previous position of primacy vis-a-vis its neighbors. The
weakening of central authority was conceived by them as the most important
single factor responsible for the disintegration of the state, with all other ills
emanating from it. Conversely, to save the empire Ottoman reformers
recommended the restoration of the traditional centralized political order
under a resurrected strong central authority. Kocu Bey, a seventeenth-century
official and courtier whoinl630 presented Sultan Murad IV (1623-1640) with
a detailed memorandum on the state of the empire, argued that only the
resurgence of a strong sultanate could stop the decline. Katib Celbei
(1608-1657) and Naima (1655-1716) proposed to bring into power a dictator,
or in their terms 'a man of the sword'.5 In the detailed proposals which these
writers and others put forward, military reform was of particular importance.
Its purpose was to provide the central authority once again with a disciplined
force, effective and free of abuses. The reformed army, in turn, would support
the central government against centrifugal forces, re-establish law and order,
and defend the state against its external enemies. Eliminating corruption in
the military would also have important beneficial effects for the treasury and
the economy in general.6
It is not our purpose here to consider the merits of the contemporary
Ottoman view, but rather to examine its practical application. Indeed, these

recommendations were put into practice, with some success, by exceptionally
strong leaders who often had to resort to ruthless methods. Foremost among
these in the seventeenth century were Sultan Murad IV (1623-1640) and the
grand vezirs of the Kopriilii house who held office, with some intervals, from
1656 to 1702.7 To strengthen central authority they introduced wide-ranging
measures. The bureaucracy and the religious hierarchy were brought under
tighter control. The financial administration was put in better order. Strong
attempts were made to restore a greater degree of central control over the
provinces; and the armed forces were disciplined and improved.8 It is
important to note, however, that the thrust of these reforms was to resurrect
the old Ottoman institutions which had fallen into decay, and restore to them
the measure of effectiveness which they were believed to have possessed
during their zenith. True, from time to time, reforms which represented
departures from the 'pristine' institutional models were, in fact, introduced.
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But these were essentially regarded as changes in detail, while the avowed
objective remained the restoration of the old institutions along their
traditional principles. In fact, it was this adherence to traditional values which
gave the reformers a measure of strength and the means to legitimize
unpopular policies. Since the military reforms were generally part of a wider
political-administrative reorganization, they were applied with the same
principles in mind. Hereafter we shall refer to measures intended to improve
the military, but without introducing significant institutional changes as
restorative military reform.
Before discussing restorative military reform it is necessary to outline the
basic characteristics of the disorganization which affected the main military
services at the time of Ottoman decline. During this period it had become the
practice that the paid military corps, and especially the Janissaries, were
infiltrated by civilian elements seeking to enjoy the privileges and immunities
conferred on the military. These civilians performed no worthwhile military
service and their lack of discipline eventually affected the performance of the
professional soldiers. In time many of the newcomers also succeeded in having
their names officially inscribed on the rolls thereby becoming eligible for pay.
The increase in numbers did not represent any accretion in military strength
but rather the contrary — growing corruption and the disintegration of the
army as a fighting force. In addition, the inflated muster rolls became a
crushing burden on the treasury. In the case of the timarli troops the process of
disintegration operated in different ways. Due to legitimate needs for funds,
but mostly because of administrative laxness and corruption, increasing
numbers of military fiefs were abolished and their income diverted for non-
military purposes. In addition, fief-holders found ways to avoid military
service and training. Consequently, the number of feudal troops capable of
rendering military duty was constantly on the decline. The salient features of
restorative military reform were intended, in brief, to reverse these trends. The
paid army corps were purged of those who did not render active military
service. The remaining troops were then brought under tighter discipline and
their training improved. The decrease in numbers also helped to ease the
burden on the treasury. For the feudal troops reform usually meant measures
intended to increase the numbers of active soldiers and improve their

effectiveness. The rolls of these troops were examined and attempts were made
to force fief-holders to train regularly and render military duties, or relinquish
their holdings in favor of others willing to serve. Moreover, in some instances,
military fiefs which had been previously abolished were actually restored for
their original purpose.
In addition, however, restorative reformers also introduced technological
improvements borrowed from Europe. They imported and manufactured by
imitation improved models of artillery pieces, new types ofsmall firearms and
more effective gunpowder. They adopted new techniques in the engineering
arts of fortification and siege and in shipbuilding. But as imitators and
importers the Ottomans inevitably trailed behind their European adversaries
in the adoption of new technology. In the seventeenth century, as the pace of
western technological advances accelerated, that gap became increasingly
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Moreover, Ottoman reluctance to tamper with the institutional structure of
their military, as well as social and cultural constraints, prohibited them
altogether from adopting certain types of new technology. During the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries European infantry employed the pike
with great advantage. Montecucculi, the victor of St Gotthard (1664),
contended that the Janissaries fighting without pikes could not resist an
assault by either European cavalry or infantry.10 Towards the end of the
seventeenth century the Austrian and Russian armies replaced the pike with
the bayonet mounted on a musket. With this simple device they achieved even
more devastating results in their campaigns against the Ottomans." The
Ottoman soldiers, however, rejected the use of the pike and the bayonet
despite repeated proof of their superiority. The reason for this appears to have
stemmed from the fact that unlike other arms the effective use of the pike and
bayonet required the adoption also of new western tactics, such as deployment
in close order squares and oblongs. This, in turn, necessitated changes in the
military structure. And organizational changes threatened vested interests in
the old military corps and the civilian segments of society associated with
them.12 Thus while they adopted the use of other aspects of western military
technology, the Ottoman soldiers rejected the pike and the bayonet as 'infidel
arms', and their objection to institutional change was expressed in cultural-
religious terms.
Moreover, it would appear that reformist leaders, even when they favored
the adoption of new military technology, were constrained not to impose
measures requiring institutional change, because these could undermine the
legitimacy of restorative reform as a general policy. Consequently against the
new and innovative western methods of warfare, the Ottomans continued to
use tactics dating from medieval times. They persisted in fighting as
uncoordinated skirmishers and in poorly controlled masses exposed to the
superior firepower and tactics of their enemies. By the beginning of the
eighteenth century, western technological advances, the greater sophistication
of European methods of warfare and the increased numerical strength of
European armies have combined to create a critical military imbalance
between the Ottomans and their adversaries.13
Even limited restorative reform tended to be spasmodic in nature. It was

usually restricted to the term of office of an exceptionally energetic leader
following which it dissipated in a renewed period of Iaxness. The reforms of
the last of the Koprulu vezirs Amcazade Huseyin Pasa (1697-1702) and their
aftermath could well serve as an example of such a pattern. Following the
disastrous Ottoman defeats at the end of the seventeenth century and the
Treaty of Karlowitz (1699), Hiiseyin carried out extensive restorative military
reforms. He purged the Janissary corps and reduced their numbers from
70,000 to 34,000 men. He also disciplined the other paid military corps and
corrected some of the more glaring abuses in the timarh forces. He paid careful
attention to the administration of the navy and constructed a fleet of galleons
on contemporary Venetian models. But immediately upon Hiiseyin's
dismissal many of his reforms were undone. Abuses once again quickly
became rampant as demonstrated by the rapid increase in the numbers of
registered Janissaries, from 34,000 to 53,200 men within one year.14
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New and more decisive defeats in the eighteenth century convinced a
growing segment of the ruling elite that restorative reform was no longer
sufficient. On one hand, the deterioration of the old order had progressed too
far. In addition, recent technological advances, and the development of new
tactics gave rise in the West to new branches, especially in the services of the
artillery and military engineering, which had no equals in the Ottoman
system. On the other hand, however, the opposition of the existing military
corps had to be taken into account.
Consequently, the eighteenth century saw an uneasy compromise between
restorative measures and western-inspired reforms. The latter term is used
here to identify such reform in which the borrowing of military technology
was coupled with the introduction of the required institutional changes
producing thereby new military organizations fashioned after western

The history of western-inspired military reform in the eighteenth century can
be divided into three distinct periods, or phases. Each began as a response to
new and increasingly more critical external threats. In each successive phase
the scope of military westernization became wider, and correspondingly, the
involvement of Europeans more pronounced. Each period also witnessed
extensive attempts at restorative reform. Yet each phase came to a halt and
ended in regression. The last and most comprehensive phase corresponding to
the age of Selim III (1789-1807) resulted in complete failure and brought the
state to the verge of total disintegration.

The first phase of western-inspired reform began in response to the crushing
defeats at the hands of the Austrians in 1716 and 1717. At first, the Ottoman
elite became interested in western institutions and culture in a rather broad
approach. This curiosity ushered in an age known in Ottoman history as the
Tulip Era (Ldle Devri), because of the elite's passion for European, and
especially French, art, furniture, clothes, architecture, gardens and above all
— tulips. The Tulip Era corresponded to the grand vezirship of Damad

Ibrahim Paja (1717-1730) who sent five missions to Europe — two to Vienna
and one each to Paris, Moscow and Poland. He instructed all his emissaries to
prepare detailed reports as to what can be learned from Europe, particularly
in military and technological matters. During this period several works
written by Ottomans and Europeans gained considerable circulation in
manuscript form among the elite. All these works suggested sweeping military
reforms after European models.15 It should be noted, however, that this was a
period of considerable literary and cultural activity in general. The first
Ottoman-Turkish press was established by a Hungarian convert to Islam who
remains known only as Ibrahim Muteferrika (16747-1745). All of the first 16
books printed in this press were of a pragmatic military-political nature.16
The Tulip Era and the regime which sponsored it were brought to an end by
a popular, Janissary-led uprising known after its leader as the Patrona Revolt
(September 1730). The uprising had been nurtured for some time by a
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depressed economy and a more visible socio-cultural polarization brought
about by the new life-style of segments of the elite. The rebellion was touched
off, however, by the Ottoman defeat in the war with Iran and the hardships
suffered in its wake by the Istanbul populace and the army. The deep-seated
causes of the revolt were essentially economic and social, although their
articulation was rendered in religious and cultural terms, and the mob's
vengeance was directed against the manifestations of westernism.17
The Patrona revolt made such an impact on Ottoman society that for
decades to come Ottoman leaders were cautious not to exhibit publicly
western cultural influences.18 Nevertheless, it is significant that as far as
militry reform was concerned, the new sultan Mahmud I (1730-54) had
actually put into effect several projects discussed under the fallen regime. He
continued to support the activities of Ibrahim Muteferrika, as well as those of
another convert, the French nobleman and officer Claude-Alexandre Comte
de Bonneval (1675-1744) who became known in Ottoman society as
Humbaraci Ahmed Pasa. Bonneval attracted to his service several other
European officers who also converted to Islam. With their help he carried out
reforms that were innovative in nature but remained limited in scope.
Bonneval's immediate assignment was to reorganize the small and outdated
Corps of Bombardiers (Humbaraci Ocagi) and increase its strength from 300
to 1,000 men. He was to organize and train this unit in the European manner
so that it could become a model for the reorganization of the entire Ottoman
army. When, at the beginning of the new drill, the Sultan reviewed the
reformed unit, he was so favorably impressed that he expressed his desire to
increase the corps to as many as 10,000 men. In fact, however, even the initial
number of 1,000 was not completed due to opposition on the part of the
Janissaries. At the end the new unit of Bombardiers remained at the same
strength as the old one — 300 men. Throughout Bonneval's lifetime, however,
it continued to train on western models.19
In addition, Bonneval helped establish a modern School of Mathematics
{Hendesehane) for military purposes. He was instrumental in modernizing the
cannon foundry (tophane), the powdermill (baruthane), the arsenal (cebhane)
and the small Corps of Miners (Lagimci) and Artillery Transport (Arabaci).
But it is important to note that these reforms were applied only to small, and

the most technical, military branches. Bonneval also advocated the reform of
the infantry and the cavalry which constituted the bulk of the Ottoman armed
forces. He recommended the modernization of the Janissary corps by
breaking up the large regiments into smaller tactical units and increasing the
ratio of junior officers to men. But the Janissaries were able to resist these
In addition to opposition on the part of the old military, there were other
factors which inhibited Bonneval's efforts. The French embassy considered
him a turncoat and throughout this period acted to undermine his position.
Another major obstacle stemmed from the fierce rivalry within the Ottoman
ruling elite itself. Bonneval was first recruited in September 1731 by Grand
Vezir Topal Osman Pasa (September 1731-March 1732) who gave him
considerable latitude and support. But when shortly afterwards Osman was
deposed, the new Grand Vezir Hekimoglu Ali Pa§a (March 1732-July 1735)
who was also reform-minded, virtually ignored Bonneval because of his
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association with the previous regime. It was only in the beginning of 1734 that
Ali recognized Bonneval's usefulness and allowed him to continue with his
military activity.21 But when Ali fell out of office in the following year,
Bonneval's work was, once again, disrupted. He regained some of his former
influence during the short tenure of office of Grand Vezir Muhsinzade
Abdullah Pasa (August-December 1737), but at the end of November 1738 he
was arrested and banished to Kastamonu, perhaps at the insistence of the
French ambassador. Less than a year later, however, Bonneval was recalled,
but he never regained his former influence. From 1739 until his death in 1747
his duties were essentially confined to the administration of the small Corps of
The first tentative attempts to introduce western-inspired military reform
were part of sporadic efforts to re-establish a strong central authority. It is
significant that the two grand vezirs who gave Bonneval the widest latitude,
Topal Osman and Hekimoglu Ali, were also those who most fervently
attempted to follow in the footsteps of the Kopriiliis. Their chief ambition was
to strengthen the position of the grand vezir vis-a-vis other foci of power at the
capital as well as to reassert the authority of the center over the provinces.
Osman did it with brute cruelty 'covered ... with the mantle of justice',23 while
Ali resorted to more subtle methods giving the impression that 'moderation
. . . [was] his governing principle'.24
Osman's achievements during his short term of office were remarkable. He
succeeded in restoring order and security to the capital following an extended
period of anarchy. He vigorously introduced a series of administrative and
financial reforms coupled with numerous new appointments intended to curb
the clergy, the bureaucrats and the military. He partially succeeded in
stamping out the numerous uprisings in Anatolia and initiated a com-
prehensive reform in the timar system. He attempted to re-establish central
control over the financial affairs of Egypt and he considerably improved the
defences of the empire on its European frontiers.25 Hekimoglu Ali continued
these policies and brought them to a greater degree of fruition. During his
tenure of office the navy was strengthened through administrative reform and
the construction of modern vessels.26 Both men must have realized that a

disciplined modern army could well serve their political objectives. At the end,
however, neither succeeded in attaining them and they were dismissed because
the Court objected to the aggrandizement of the office of grand vezir.27
The first attempt to introduce western-inspired military reform exhibited
some of the characteristic problems which were to reappear during the entire
period under discussion. That the reforms were desirable was recognized by
the reigning sultan and men in authority. In the person of Bonneval and his
assistants the Ottomans had a small, but qualified, team of European officers
who could have directed the reforms as required. The reforms failed
essentially for lack of a determined and stable leadership that could sustain
them in the face of strong popular opposition. The court, while not taking a
direct lead in affairs of government, acted to prevent the office of the grand
vezir from becoming too powerful. This was achieved by a variety of means:
terms of office were kept short; key government offices were rotated among
political rivals known for their bitter mutual hostility; and, on occasion,
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known incompetents were deliberately appointed only to replace them shortly
afterwards. Because of the intense rivalry within the Ottoman ruling elite, it
was the normal procedure for each newly appointed grand vezir to start his
term of office by replacing all the proteges of his fallen predecessor with his
own men. Such a style of rule made it difficult, if not altogether impossible, to
maintain the continuity of state policies necessary for the attainment of long-
term objectives. Consequently, in spite of the fact that many of the Ottoman
leading personalities supported western-inspired reform, Bonneval's
measures achieved only limited results.
Moreover, Ottoman military successes against the Austrians in the
campaigns of 1737, 1738 and 1739, crowned by the Treaty of Belgrade (18
September 1739) which restored Bosnia and Serbia to the Ottoman empire,
lulled the Ottoman leadership into a false sense of security.28 This was even
further strengthened by the three decades of peace which the empire enjoyed
on its European frontiers from 1739 to 1768. With the external threat having
receded to the background western-inspired military reform no longer
appeared as urgent as before. During this period one of the eighteenth
century's most capable statesmen and a talented man of letters, Koca Ragib
Pa^a, held office as grand vezir for over six years, from January 1757 to his
death in April 1763. Ragib succeeded in carrying out extensive restorative
reforms in the civilian administration and the military.29 But he was reluctant
to introduce western-inspired measures. He is credited with having said 'I am
afraid that we shall be unable to re-establish order if we once break the
harmony of the existing institutions'.30 Under the prevailing mood,
Bonneval's limited reforms gradually dissipated. Even Miiteferrika's printing
press was closed down after his death in 1745 and the printing of books
stopped until 1783.31

In the last third of the eighteenth century the Ottoman empire was involved in
two of the most injurious wars in its history; the first against Russia
(1768-1774) and the second against a coalition of Russia and Austria
(1787-1792). Although the Ottomans generally enjoyed numerical superiority

on the battle-field, they were overcome by western technology and methods of
warfare.32 The territorial and political losses suffered in these conflicts were
staggering. The first of these wars saw the introduction of a new dimension in
Ottoman-Russian warfare relations. A Russian fleet, partly officered by the
British, circled the European continent all the way from the Baltic and
destroyed the Ottoman navy at Cheshme (July 1770). This served as the direct
motive for the establishment, in 1776, of a School of Naval Engineering and
the launching of a new phase of extensive western-inspired military reform
which lasted throughout the reign of Abdulhamid I (1774-1789).33
At this stage, Ottoman efforts at military rejuvenation received vigorous
assistance from the French government, a traditional ally. With the expansion
of its economic and political interests in the eastern Mediterranean, France
became increasingly concerned over Austrian and Russian encroachment on
the Ottoman empire and its wider political and military ramifications.
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Consequently when, in 1768, hostilities broke out between the Ottoman
empire and Russia, Louis XV offered Sutan Mustafa III military assistance.
But the war had such a destabilizing impact on the government that it was
slow to respond.34 It did, however, accept the services of one French agent
who was already on the scene. Baron Francois de Tott (1730-1793), of
Hungarian origin, was an artillery officer in the French service. In 1755 he had
been sent to Istanbul on official duty and during the course of his stay there he
gained the respect of the sultan's court. During the war years of 1768-74 de
Tott's help was enlisted for a variety of military endeavors marking the
beginning of an extended era of French official or semi-official military and
technological assistance to the empire. De Tott helped establish a new cannon
foundry and improved the designs of Ottoman cannon carriages. Under his
supervision a number of important forts were strengthened and when,
following the destruction of the Ottoman navy, a Russian sea-born attack on
Istanbul appeared imminent his contribution to the fortification of the
Dardanelles was highly valued.35
In 1773 de Tott helped set up a new School of Mathematics.36 In March 1776
he returned to Paris, but meanwhile, since January 1774, more French
military officers and technical advisers began to arrive in Istanbul. With their
assistance, in 1776, the School of Mathematics was transformed into a School
of Naval Engineering and later, in 1784, a Fortification Section was added to
it. The French instructors gave their lessons in French and Greek and
Armenian assistants translated them to Turkish.37 To provide the school with
textbooks a Turkish press was established by the French on the premises of
their embassy and in 1786 and 1787 it printed two major works.38 Apparently
there also was a project, agreed upon by the French ambassador Choiseul-
Gouffier and Grand Vezir Halil Hamid, to send to Paris 30 young Ottoman
students. However, this plan, the boldest of all, was never realized.39
Meanwhile, French artillery officers under the command of Lieutenant
Aubert began, in 1774, to recruit and train a new unit of field artillery,40 a
branch which had not existed until then. The model unit of 250 men was set up
according to the French regulation of 1765.41 But in 1781, following the death
of the reform-minded Grand Vezir Karavezir Seyyid Mehmed Paja, under
Janissary pressure the new unit was temporarily disbanded. Aubert and his

assistants returned to France. But following the appointment of another
reformist grand vezir, Halil Hamid Paja, Aubert and his men returned to
Istanbul. This time the field artillery unit was expanded to 2,000 men and the
original 250 cannoneers were appointed as officers and instructors to the new
recruits. As a result of regular training, the corps made good progress and its
cannon teams were capable of firing eight to ten shots per minute. With the
establishment of this unit a departure from previous administrative practices
was introduced with the purpose of strengthening government control over
the military. The old corps were supervised only by military commanders who
had the title of aga. Now a system of dual control was introduced. In addition
to the aga, a civilian superintendent (ndzir) was appointed to supervise the
corps' administrative and financial affairs and report directly to the grand
vezir's administration.42
Under Halil Hamid's reformist administration, and with the energetic
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support of the French ambassador Choiseul-Gouffier, more French military
experts followed in the years 1783 and 1784. With them arrived also groups of
technicians from the various French military arsenals, construction and
foundry workers, carpenters and shipwrights.43 The presence of the French
mission was impressive. The Prussian envoy reported — with some
exaggeration, perhaps — that at least 300 French officers and engineers were
employed by the Ottoman government.44 Indeed French assistance was
substantial: French engineers improved numerous fortifications and set up
new batteries; they cast cannons and mortars according to French models,
and shipwrights built new vessels according to modern design.
Nevertheless, Franco-Ottoman relations were, at times, tenuous. In March
1784, the French suggested that the Duke of Luxembourg establish
headquarters on Crete or Rhodes in order to raise an Ottoman force of 1,200
men and train it in all contemporary military sciences. The plan fell under
Ottoman suspicion that the French actually intended to secure for themselves
an island-base in the eastern Mediterranean. The proposal was therefore
politely rejected.45 In addition the French mission suffered from some of the
basic difficulties which were to plague most foreign aid programs in modern
history. Language and culture barriers placed obstacles on the successful
progress of the mission's work. Behind the back of the reformist grand vezirs
many of the religious leaders denounced the presence of the infidel officers in
Istanbul. Contempt was sometimes the lot of those Ottomans who attended
the lessons of the French instructors or were associated with them in any way.
Public disapproval was so strong that the French officers did not dare to wear
their uniforms in the street. Ottoman bureaucrats of intermediate and lower
ranks regarded the French workers with suspicion. Leroy who was assigned to
the naval arsenal reported in despair that 'each piece of wood, each pound of
nails . . . is an object for negotiations'.46 On the other hand, some Frenchmen
found it difficult to adjust to the new and foreign work conditions. Captain
Saint-Remy who was assigned to the cannon foundry had to be recalled due to
clashes with the Ottoman staff.47
The western-inspired reforms of this period were accompanied by intensive
restorative measures. Aside from the reform-minded reigning Sultan
Abdulhamid I, three leaders were most instrumental in applying these

policies: Grand Vezir Karavezir Seyyid Mehmed Pa§a (August 1779-
February 1781), Grand Vezir Halil Hamid Pasa (December 1782-March
1785) and Grand Admiral Cezayirli Hasan Pasa (October 1770-February
1774; and again July 1774-April 1789).48 The first of these three, Seyyid
Mehmed, gave particular attention to the old Artillery and Bombardier corps.
He required them to train regularly and purchased for them modern
European equipment.49 Halil Hamid's efforts were more comprehensive, and
he endeavored to revamp the entire military establishment. He ordered that
each military branch be identified by special uniforms and prohibited civilians
from wearing the same garb. This last order remained largely on paper, but he
did succeed in purging the Janissary corps and eliminating from their ranks
some of the most troublesome elements.50
Cezayirli Hasan, in 1784, introduced important improvements in the navy.
Until that date the government did not provide regular barracks for its seamen
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who used to live on board their ships. During winter, when naval operations
were suspended, it was the practice to dismiss the sailors to their homes. The
result was that many of them failed to show up for service in the following
spring thereby forcing the naval authorities to recruit each year a large
number of unseasoned sailors. To enhance professionalism Cezayirli Hasan
wanted to build permanent barracks in order to keep and train the seamen
throughout the winter months. This plan was opposed by many. One of its
bitter enemies was the reform-minded Halil Hamid. The grand vezir feared
that the new barracks, proposed to be constructed at the naval arsenal in the
capital, would strengthen the grand admiral's influence in affairs of state.
Cezayirli Hasan, however, proceeded to build the barracks at his personal
expense in spite of the opposition. He repaid the grand vezir by joining the
Iatter's political enemies and contributing to his eventual downfall.51
The most energetic military reformers were also engaged in wide-ranging
attempts to counter the disruptive impact of the foreign wars and strengthen
the central government. Seyyid Mehmed gave great consideration to
reforming the central administration, by appointing capable men to key
positions and doing away with the pernicious practice of needlessly rotating
provincial governors.52 Both Seyyid Mehmed and Halil Hamid were
concerned with the decline of the government's control over the provinces and
the rise of independent provincial rulers. They issued decrees which placed the
authority to confirm the nomination of local notables (ayans) in the hands of
the grand vezir, rather than the provincial governors, as had been the practice
before. When this proved to no avail another grand vezir Koca Yusuf Pasa
(January 1786-June 1789) finally took a radical step and attempted to outlaw
the position of the ayan altogether(April 1786).53 These legislative initiatives
were coupled with punitive military expeditions against some of the most
rebellious provincial rulers. It was in this connection that in June 1786
Cezayirli Hasan led an expedition against the rebellious Mamluks of Egypt.
The expedition proved a military success. It had to be cut short, however,
because of the outbreak of a new war in Europe and thus it failed to achieve
the objective of re-establishing the government's control over Egypt.54
Centralizing policies and military expeditions met with a similar fate in other
regions as well. In spite of a spasmodic show of strength, the power of the

central government was receding almost everywhere. The debilitating defeats
in foreign wars undermined the strength of the central government materially
as well as morally. In the Arab provinces, Anatolia and now also in the
Balkans, powerful local rulers presented increasingly more serious challenges
to the state. As the most fertile areas slipped away from the government's
control revenues declined as well. Consequently, the rulers' ambitions to carry
out extensive military reforms were now severely curbed by financial
The military reforms, but in particular the financial measures which
reassigned funds from the old corps for the maintenance of the new field
artillery, made Grand Vezir Halil Hamid extremely unpopular. But open
agitation against him began only after the Ottoman government approved the
Agreement of Aynah Kavak (January 1784) which confirmed Russia's
annexation of the Crimea. Halil Hamid's political rivals used this as a
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convenient pretext to call for his dismissal. Among the latter was also the
influential and reform-minded Grand Admiral Cezayirli Hasan. The
agitation eventually resulted in Halil Hamid's dismissal (31 March 1785) and
later execution.56
For the time being the presence of the French mission was tolerated mainly
because a new war with Russia seemed imminent. But without Halil Hamid's
strong leadership the drive for military reform had dissipated. In the fall of
1787 another Ottoman-Russian war indeed broke out and when it became
apparent that the Habsburgs, to whom the King of France was now related by
marriage, were about to join Russia, the French government withdrew its
mission.57 The second phase of western-inspired reform had come to a close.
The reforms of the 1770s and 1780s were on a wider scale by far than those
of the previous phase. A significant departure from past practices was
Ottoman acceptance of European instructors without their first having to
convert to Islam. This evoked conservative criticism. But at the same time, it
was a clear indication of a wider consensus among the ruling elite regarding
the necessity of western-inspired reform. Yet, with all their boldness, the
reforms affected only the most technical and numerically small military
branches. The main body of the Ottoman army, the infantry and the cavalry,
remained as antiquated as it had been.
The limited results of this second phase are attributable to the same factors
which militated against the success of the first: opposition on the part of the
old military corps and their civilian allies and the extreme divisiveness among
the ruling elite. But it would appear that at this stage economic constraints had
become more prominent than in the past. If we are to accept Charles Issawi's
statement that 'until the 19th century, labor was by far the most important
factor of production',58 then the paucity of the Ottoman state revenue was
indeed outstanding when compared to those of contemporary European
governments. With a population estimated at close to twenty million in the
Balkans and Anatolia,59 Eton, reporting 'from the most authentic
documents', stated that in 1776 the total revenue was 44,942,500 piasters
(kuru§), equivalent at that time to about 4.5 million British pounds. 60 If these
figures are correct, then in the following decades state revenues continued to
decline. Stratford Canning, writing in 1809, reported that 'before 1794', and

presumably by the end of the 1787-92 war, the revenue 'did not exceed
20,000,000 piastres'.61 New taxes introduced in the reign of Selim III produced
an additional income of 'something short of 30,000,000 piastres'. But due to
the devaluation of the Ottoman currency, Canning estimated that at the time
of writing, in 1809, it scarcely equalled 2.25 million British pounds, 'a sum
very far indeed below their wants, and which, when compared with the
enormous extent of the Ottoman Empire, betrays in a strong light the mis-
management which exists in the manner of collecting it'.62 By comparison,
Britain, with only 9.5 million inhabitants in 1787-90 had an average annual
revenue of 16.8 million pounds, while France with a population of 24 million
had revenues equal to 18 million pounds in 1787 and 24 million pounds in
Thornton, a well-informed observer, writing a decade or so later, came to
the unmistakable conclusion:
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The finances... are incapable of being improved, so as to be sufficient
for the support of a regular standing army, by any constitutional means,
or by any means which the people, instigated by turbulent and
ambitious leaders, would not efficaciously oppose.64

Eighteenth-century military reform came to its culmination during the reign
of Selim III (1789-1807). Selim's era has been the subject of detailed research
by Turkish and western scholars, foremost among them Stanford J. Shaw.65
For this reason the present study will discuss only those characteristics of
Selim's policies which are the most relevant to our subject.
The main contribution of Selim's measures was an extension of western-
inspired reform also to the core services of the Ottoman army — the infantry
and the cavalry. Although the old military organizations were maintained, for
the first time the Ottoman government organized new infantry and cavalry
units on western models known as the New Order Army (Nizdm-i Cedid). By
1806 the rolls of this new force listed 24,000 men. Together with other
modernized support elements it had a total strength of about 30,000 men and
the modernized navy some 40,000 men.66
The attempts to create a European-style army were accompanied by
renewed efforts to rejuvenate the old military corps. The most significant
reform in this sphere was an administrative measure intended to bring all the
old military corps under closer civilian supervision. This was in effect an
extension of the principle of dual control first introduced in the previous reign
and applied to the new branch of field artillery. Under Selim all the military
corps were assigned civilian inspectors who were in charge of their corps'
financial administration and were to report directly to the grand vezir's
In carrying out his military reforms Selim was assisted by many European
military and technical advisers. The Ottomans asked for, and received, a large
French mission. But learning from past experience they also recruited, on an
individual basis, Britons, Swedes and Italians.
It is striking, however, that Selim's measures exhibited little direct

continuity with those of the previous reign. The reforms previously
introduced in the artillery corps were allowed to fade away before a new effort
was undertaken to revive them in 1793. It was the same with the engineering
schools. This was due to the fact that upon ascending to the throne Selim
brought to power his own 'team' paying at first little attention to the policies
undertaken under the previous regime. Only in the navy was a measure of
continuity maintained.67
Selim was an able ruler who won considerable support for his policies
among the ruling elite. He even succeeded in gaining the cooperation of the
chief provincial notables in western and central Anatolia in helping the
government to recruit troops for the New Order Army. But by the end of the
eighteenth century the centrifugal forces within the state had become too
powerful. The most vigorous opposition to military reform and centralization
now came from the local notables (ayans) of the Balkans, especially in such
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centers as Ruschuk, Silistre, Vidin and Yannina. In the last decades of the
eighteenth century these notables had become increasingly wealthy, powerful
and independent.68 Selim's efforts to re-establish some central control over the
provinces by means of a rejuvenated system of checks and balances that would
curb the centrifugal forces had failed miserably.69 In addition to the provincial
opponents whose formidable power was a recent phenomenon, there were all
the traditional antagonists. Moreover, the military reforms were universally
unpopular because they were accompanied by increased taxation, inflation,
food shortages, and other economic hardships. At the same time the ruling
elite continued to exhibit its inherent weaknesses of endemic divisiveness and
deadly rivalry even among those who believed in the need for reform.70 Faced
with mounting opposition at a critical point Selim himself proved to be
lacking in determination. His half-hearted attempt to extend the conscription
to the New Order Army to his Balkan provinces was defeated by the local
notables in the summer of 1806. The notables then took the initiative and
entered into an alliance with the Janissaries of Istanbul and other opponents
of reform. By May 1807 this powerful coalition was able to bring about the
Sultan's deposition and the abolition of his reform policy. The New Order
Army was dissolved and many of its officers and supporters killed. The new
barracks, factories, schools and other installations were destroyed. Little
survived the wave of reaction which set in.
Contemporary observers saw in the New Order Army a supreme test not
merely for Ottoman ability to infuse new strength in the military, but for the
very viability of the state. Following the establishment of the new force Eton
The mere institution of this militia is an important event; and Selim may,
perhaps, effect by policy, what several of his ancestors have attempted
by force. Could he put himself at the head of a disciplined army, he
would conquer the Ulema as easily as the Janizaries, and the Turkish
power, though it would never again be formidable to Europe, might be
respectable in Asia.71
Consequently, the collapse of Selim's reforms was seen not merely as a setback
to military modernization. More significantly, it was an indication of the

failure of political cohesion and impending disintegration. Stratford Canning
concluded: 'Both morally and materially [the] empire was bordering on
decrepitude. The old political system of Turkey had worn itself out'.72

As we have seen, the impulse for military reform stemmed from two sources:
first, the need of the central government to maintain, or restore, its control
over the bureaucracy and the military and suppress the centrifugal forces
threatening to break up the state from within; and second, the necessity to
defend the state against external enemies. Both motives were inherent to the
Ottoman traditional political system, and they were also closely interrelated.
For failure in foreign wars undermined the political and moral foundations of
the state. In the eighteenth century the external threat forced military
reformers to adopt increasingly western models. This could hardly be
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attributed to changes in political or cultural attitudes. It was rather the
outcome of a realistic assessment that modern combat required the adoption
of western military organization and methods of warfare in addition to
technology. The political objectives of military reformers, however, remained
essentially the same as in the past — the restoration of the traditional
centralized political order. In fact, with the exception of the brief
experimentation during the Tulip Era, the western-inspired reform was
exclusively limited to the military and ancillary areas. The printing press and
the schools founded in this period were not designed to serve a wide
educational purpose, but were limited to pragmatic military-administrative
needs. It is true, however, that though unintended these activities generated an
awareness in Ottoman society of some aspects of western culture. But it is
equally obvious that this awareness remained very limited throughout the
eighteenth century.
The reformers of this period did not constitute a well-defined party, nor did
they represent a particular school of thought. Those who supported reform
most vigorously were usually individuals in power who temporarily shared an
identity of interests with the centralizing policies of the government. Political
leaders who opposed reform when out of power sometimes supported it when
in authority. Some of the notables who resisted military reform by the state
were themselves modernizing factors in their own realm. Perhaps the most
noted example of this narrow, self-serving attitude to reform was the case of
Mustafa Bayrakdar, the notable of Ruschuk. In 1806 he helped defeat Sultan
Selim's efforts to strengthen the New Order Army and was instrumental in its
abolition. In 1808, when Mustafa became grand vezir, he himself headed a
new drive to revive Selim's reforms."
On the other side of the watershed, there is nothing to suggest that
conservatism was a well-defined political force. As Uriel Heyd has
demonstrated, Ottoman religious leaders, under pressure of determined
rulers, justified western-inspired reform as necessary. In their sermons and
writings they explained that the Holy War against the infidel was one of the
foremost duties of believers. To strengthen the army of Islam by every means
was, therefore, an important religious obligation. To learn from the infidel
enemy was legally permissible on the basis of the Islamic principle of

reciprocation (mukdbele bi-l-misl), or fighting the enemy with his own means.
To prove this point these religious leaders cited passages from the Koran and
precedents from the life of the Prophet Muhammad and of medieval Islamic
history.74 But these 'liberal' religious leaders apparently represented only a
small segment of the higher clergy. It is likely that the majority of the clergy,
especially of the lower classes, espoused more conservative views, criticized
western-inspired reform and lent legitimacy to its opponents. Nevertheless, it
is important to note that as a system of beliefs, Ottoman Islam could
accommodate both reformers and conservatives; and political leaders who
were sufficiently determined could, and did, receive the religious-legal
sanction which they deemed necessary to carry out and lend legitimacy to
western-inspired reform.75
Regarding the popular attitudes of Ottoman-Muslim society as a whole,
again it is likely that these were traditional and conservative in nature. The
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elements which were opposed to reform — for whatever reason — could count
on gaining the popular sentiment by appealing to traditional values, however
vaguely formulated. This, in fact, was the greatest asset of the political
opponents of reform. But 'conservatism' — however it may be defined —
generally remained an inchoate force requiring direction and leadership to
realize its potential. Ottoman society rejected westernizing reform in the reign
of Selim III, but the same society accepted it, in a definitive and irreversible
manner, less than two decades later, in the reign of Mahmud II (1808-1839).
During this span of time, as far as can be ascertained, there had been no
perceptible changes in religious doctrine or in popular outlook and values. It
would appear, therefore, that while 'conservatism' remained a constant
condition, the determinative variables for the failure of eighteenth-century
reform must be searched for elsewhere.
The first cause for the failure of reform appears to stem from the weakness
of its 'ideological' underpinnings. In western and central Europe the rise of
modern armies was part of a wide-ranging social and political transformation.
It resulted in the consolidation of the power of the state and the concomitant
reduction of the authority of intermediate bodies, such as guilds, towns and
provinces. The rise of modern European armies was, therefore, identified with
social and political change and was promoted by those centripetal forces
seeking it. The modern army thus testified to the growing ability of the central
government to reach wider areas of societal activity. By contrast, in the
Ottoman empire the forces promoting military reform were those which
espoused not only the restoration of a traditional political system, but also the
conservation of the existing medieval social order. It is significant that reform-
minded rulers usually reinforced the observance of the traditional sumptuary
laws which imposed a strict dress code on persons of different religions, classes
and professions.76 Military reformers supported ideals which were
conservative in all essential aspects. Consequently, military reforms requiring
the breakup of the guild-like structure of the traditional military order were
dissonant with the basic thrust of general restorative reform. Thus, while there
was wide consensus, although little cooperation, among the ruling elite
regarding the desirability of restorative reform, the issue of westernization
tended to split and narrow that consensus.

A second, more significant cluster of factors responsible for the failure of
western-inspired reform derived from the weakness of the center. Unlike
earlier periods the eighteenth century witnessed relative dynastic stability
characterized by lengthy reigns and, with two exceptions, smooth transitions.
Of the six sultans who reigned from 1703 to 1807, three — Ahmed III,
Mahmud I and Mustafa III — were competent monarchs within the accepted
norms of Ottoman statecraft, and two — Abdulhamid I and Selim III — may
be characterized even as energetic. All five indicated an interest in western-
inspired military reform. Still none of them made a sustained attempt to attain
the desired objectives of reform by direct intervention in governmental affairs.
This was partly due to Ottoman political theory, as it had crystalized by the
eighteenth century. The sultan was regarded as the personification of divine
authority, 'the shadow of God on the face of the earth'. As such he was the
source of all legitimate power, but was not expected to exercise it directly. To
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maintain his lofty position the sultan was supposed to exist in a state of blissful
isolation above the turmoil of political realities. 'The King of Kings who is
Caliph of the World has need for no one', declared an eighteenth-century
writer.77 In addition, courtiers and politicians, for their own advantage, did
their best to divert the sultan's attentions from government affairs to other
activities. Consequently, the sultans of the eighteenth century became
ensnarled in a style of rule uncharacteristic of that which prevailed in the age
of Ottoman greatness when the sovereigns actively ruled. In theory the grand
vezir was the actual mover of governmental affairs. According to our
eightenth-century source he should have been 'an unrestricted representative
[of the sultan]. . . The whole of the regulating and ordering of the affairs of
the country . . . should be committed to his responsibility... requests which he
presents to the Imperial Presence should not be denied. The unrestrained
grand vezir must have the favor of his patron . . . \ 7 8
Realities however were far from the ideal. Court functionaries, rival
politicians, leading members of the clergy and, above all, the sultans
themselves feared the aggrandizement in power of the grand vezirs. To avoid
this, throughout the eighteenth century, appointments to this office, with few
exceptions, were of short duration. In the 68-year period from October 1730 to
August 1798 no less thn 48 times were appointments made to this office,
although some appointees served more than once. As a result during this
period the average term of office was about 17 months. It is an interesting
observation that during the early years of each reign tenure was exceedingly
short. The single exception to this rule was the reign of Mustafa III
(1757-1774). Upon ascending the throne Mustafa found and kept in office the
able statesman and man of letters Koca Ragib Mehmed Pa^a (January
1757-April 1763). But Mahmud I (1730-1754) appointed three grand vezirs
within the first 17 months of his reign; Osman III (1754-1757) during his short
reign of less than three years had seven grand vezirs; and Selim III (1789-1807)
replaced no less than four grand vezirs within the first 21 months of his reign.
It was only after the new sultan's party had firmly entrenchd itself that
lengthier periods of tenure were allowed. It seems as if in the eighteenth
century the court was determined not to allow the rise of a powerful dynasty of
grand vezirs, such as the Kopriilu family which during the previous century

played an important part in maintaining the ascendancy of the center. The
costs of such a style of rule were obvious. Neither the court nor the office of the
grand vezir could emerge as strong centers of government. The grand vezir's
short term of office did not permit the introduction and maintenance of long-
term state policies. This was further aggravated by the endemic factionalism
characteristic of the Ottoman elite. Consequently although there was some
limited consensus among the ruling elite regarding the desirability of western-
inspired reform actual cooperation on its implementation was little or non-
The failure of the center to reassert its authority facilitated the resurgence of
centrifugal forces in the provinces. The latter became increasingly more
powerful and independent as the eighteenth century progressed attaining the
high point of their strength in the last decade of the eighteenth century and the
first decade of the nineteenth. As a group the notables of the northern and
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western Balkan provinces were more powerful and independent than the local
rulers of Anatolia because of two important factors. They were in control of
agriculturally rich land and geography placed them in a favorable position to
engage more freely in independent international commerce.79 The situation in
the Nile valley was similar to that in the Balkans. It was, therefore, in these
regions where resistance to the government's centralizing policies was the
strongest and most successful.
These processes further contributed to the shrinking of the economic base
of the state. As available resources were dwindling, military reform, by
necessity, meant either new taxation on an already heavily taxed population,
or the diversion of funds from existing institutions. Due to the fragmentation
of the elite, the established armed forces, but especially the Janissaries and the
timarh cavalry, became increasingly independent of civilian control. Instead,
they were dominated by the class interests of their senior and intermediary
officers. To the latter any reform measure appeared to threaten vital economic
and social interests and they were, therefore, to be found in the forefront of
any movement opposed to reform. They were the group most directly
threatened by reform and they were the ones who opposed it most vigorously
and consistently. To move forcefully against the established military was
wrought with danger. The old military establishment was large and its
interests overlapped those of substantial segments of the Muslim middle and
lower classes in the capital and other urban centers. In the Balkan provinces
the feudal fighting class formed the administrative-military infra-structure on
which rested Ottoman sovereignty over areas largely inhabited by an
increasingly restive Christian population.
To carry out western-inspired military reform was, therefore, above all a
test of the center's ability to reassert itself. The failure of military reform was
seen as a sure sign of political decomposition. At the dawn of the nineteenth
century to friend and foe alike the Ottoman empire appeared moribund. As is
well known, however, the Ottoman empire did not disintegrate in 1807.
Moreover, in 1826 Sultan Mahmud II was able to revive the New Order Army
under a different name. This time the process proved irreversible and
Mahmud's reforms served as a basis not only for the establishment of a
modern army, but they also introduced a new form of government which

gradually came to approximate those of centralized European states. But
before he could successfully carry out military reform Mahmud II was
required to reconstitute the central authority under the aegis of the court and
re-impose central control over a sufficient number of provinces in Anatolia
and the Balkans.80 It is striking that Mahmud's reign began under conditions
that from every 'objective' perspective — economic, demographic, political —
were inferior to those prevailing throughout the eighteenth century. But, to
paraphrase Nur Yalman, the period of disintegration and dissolution which
ushered in Mahmud's reign, provided the necessary background and
opportunity for the rise of a new charismatic leadership.81 In the Ottoman
context such leadership could be provided only by a member of the royal
family. Two conditions made it possible for Mahmud to discard the
traditional style of rule and take direct control of governmental affairs:
necessity and ability. In the eighteenth century these conditions, apparently,
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never coincided.


A note on transliteration: Ottoman-Turkish names and terms are transliterated by using present-
day Turkish spelling. In words of Arabic origin the final b and d are preserved (katib, not katip;
Mahmud, not Mahmut).

1. William H. McNeill, The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community (Chicago,
1963), 695.
2. Andre Corvisier, Armies and Societies in Europe, 1494-1789, tr. Abigail T. Siddall
(Bloomington, Indiana, 1979), 61.
3. On Ottoman institutions at their zenith consult the following recent works: Halil Inalcik,
The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300-1600, trs. N. ItzkowitzandC. Imber (London,
1973); M. A. Cook (ed.), A History of the Ottoman Empire to 1730 (Cambridge, 1976), 1-102
(Chapters by M. A. Cook, H. Inalcik and V. J. Parry); Stanford J. Shaw, History of the
Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, volume I: Empire of the Gazis (Cambridge, 1976),
1-167; Peter F. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule (volume V of the series A
History of East Central Europe, Seattle, 1977), 3-183; Bistra A. Cvetkova, Les Institutions
Ottomanes en Europe (Wiesbaden, 1978), 1-77.
4. For an excellent short discussion of the decline of the Ottoman dynasty and its impact on the
state see Cook, 103-156 (Chapters by V. J. Parry), and especially pp. 133-38. On Ottoman
decline in general see: Shaw, History, I, 169-298; Sugar, 187-288; Cvetkova, 78-117.
5. Cf. Bernard Lewis, 'Ottoman Observers of Ottoman Decline', Islamic Studies, I (1962),
71-87; Lewis V. Thomas, A Study ofNaima (ed. Norman Itzkowitz, New York, 1972), 94-96;
Halil Inalcik, 'The Ottoman Decline and its Effects upon the Reaya', in Henrik Birnbaum
and Speros Vryonis, Jr, Aspects of the Balkans: Continuity and Change (The Hague, 1972),
346-47; M. Cagatay Ulucay, 'Koci Bey', Islam Ansiklopedisi (henceforth abbreviated as I A),
VI, 823-31; M. Cavid Baysun, 'Naima', I A. IX, 44-49; Shaw, History, I, 290-93.
6. Walter Livingston Wright, Jr, Ottoman Statecraft: The Book of Counsel for Vezirs and
Governors of Sari Mehmed Pasha, the Defterdar (Princeton, 1935), 110-15, 142-48.
7. Another Kopriilii, Nu'man Pasa, served as grand vezir in 1710, but for two months only.
8. Shaw, History, I, 197-98, 209-212; Halil Inalcik, 'Centralization and Decentralization in
Ottoman Administration', in Thomas Naff and Roger Owen (eds.), Studies in Eighteenth
Century Islamic History (Carbondale, Illinois, 1977), 27-31; Ismail Hakki Uzuncarsili,
Osmanli Tarihi, vol. Ill, part II (Ankara 1954), 275-77; vol. IV, part I (Ankara, 1956), 1-9;
M. Tayyib Gokbilgin, 'Kopruliiler', IA. VI, 892-908.
9. On this subject see Halil Inalcik, 'The Socio-Political Effects of the Diffusion of Fire-Arms
in the Middle East', in V. J. Parry and M. E. Yapp, eds., War, Technology and Society in the

Middle East (Oxford, 1975), 195-217; and in the same volume V. J. Parry, 'La Maniere de
Combattre', 218-56; also see idem, 'Materials of War in the Ottoman Empire', in M. A.
Cook (ed.), Studies in the Economic History of the Middle East (Oxford, 1970), 225-27; idem,
'Warfare' in P. M. Holt et al. (eds.), The Cambridge History of Islam, vol. II (Cambridge,
1970), 835-36.
10. Raimondo de Montecucculi, Memoires de Montecucculi, tr. J. Adam (3 vols., Amsterdam,
1746), II, 363.
11. Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli, VEtat Militaire de I'Empire Ottoman (2 parts, Haya, 1732), 11,33;
Henry Grenville, Observations sur 1'etat actuel de I'Empire Ottoman, ed. A. S. Ehrenkreutz
(Ann Arbor, 1965), 15-19.
12. The Ottoman historian Cevdet identifies the intermediary officers of the Janissary corps as
the most obstinate opponents of reform. He refers to them as the 'Janissary Elders' {peak
eskileri). Through the control of administrative positions in the individual regiments (ortas),
these men were best able to profit from various illegal activities and also were conveniently
positioned to influence and control the majority of men under their command. Many of
these intermediary officers were also affiliated with, or even leading members in, various
guilds thereby able to mobilize also the support of part of the urban classes. Cf. Ahmed
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Cevdet, Tarih-i Cevdet, IX (1292/1875-76), 11-12.
13. Grenville, Observations, 16, 24-25; Baron de Valentini, Traite de la guerre contre les Turcs,
tr. L. Blesson (2 parts, Berlin, 1830), I, 19-20; sharp increases in the strength of European
armies occurred following the close of the Thirty Years War, in 1648. Cf. Samuel E. Finer,
'State — and Nation-Building in Europe: The Role of the Military', in Charles Tilly, ed., The
Formation of National States in Western Europe (Princeton, 1975), 101.
14. Orhan F. Koprulu, 'Hiiseyin Pasa Amcazade', IA, V, 646-50; Uzuncarsih, Tarih, IV, 1,7-10;
idem, Osmauli Devteti Teskilatindan Kapukulu Ocaklan, I (Ankara, 1943), 491, 617.
15. Faik Resit Unat, 'Ahmet III Devrine ait bir islahat takriri', Tarih Vesikalan, I (1941),
107-121; Cagatay Ulucay and Enver Kartekin, Yiiksek Muhendis Okulu (Istanbul, 1958), 15;
A.H. Tanpmar, XIX Asir Turk Edebiyati Tarihi (2nd ed., Istanbul, 1956), I, 10-11; N.
Berkes, The Development of Secularism in Turkey (Montreal, 1964), 42-45.
16. Selim Nuzhet Gercek, Turk Matbaacihgi, I — Muteferrika Matbaasi, Istanbul, 1939; l'Abbe
Toderini, De la litteralure des Turcs, tr. l'Abbe de Cournand (Paris, 1789), III, 219-32 and ff;
Niyazi Berkes, Turkiye'de Cagdaslasma (Istanbul, 1978), 63-65.
17. Shaw, History, I, 238-40; Robert W. Olson, The Siege of Mosul and Ottoman-Persian
Relations, 1718-1743 (Bloomington, Indiana, 1975), 65-88; for a detailed study see Munir
Aktepe, Patrona Isyani (1730) (Istanbul, 1958).
18. Cf. Serif Mardin, 'Center-Periphery Relations: A Key to Turkish Politics?', Daedalus, vol.
102, no. 1 (Winter 1973), 175.
19. Mehmed Subhi, Mustafa Sami and Hiiseyin Sakir, Tarih-i Subhi Sami ve Sakir (Istanbul,
1197/1782-83), 58b; Uzuncarsili, Kapukulu. II (Ankara, 1944), 119; Heinrich Benedikt,Z>er
Pascha-Graf Alexander von Benneval, 1675-1747 (Graz-Koln, 1959), 95, 114-15.
20. Subhi, Sami ve Sakir, 58b-59b; Ahmed Ata, Tayyarzade, Tarih-i Ata (5 vols., Istanbul,
1291-93/1874-76), I, 158; Uzuncarsili, Kapukulu, II, 118-20; Ulucay and Kartekin, 17-19;
Abdulhak Adnan-Adivar, Osmanli Turkelerinde Him (Istanbul, 1943), 161-62, 182-83;
Osman Ergin, Tiirkiye Maarif Tarihi (5 vols., Istanbul, 1939-43), 1,49-50; Septime Gorceix,
Bonneval Pacha (Paris, 1953), 161; Benedikt, 114-15; H. Bowen,'Ahmad Pasha, Bonneval',
The Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed., Leiden, 1954 to date; henceforth abbreviated as EP), I,
21. Mary Lucille Shay, The Ottoman Empire from 1720to 1734 as Revealed in the Despatches of
the Venetian Baili (Urbana, Illinois, 1944), 37.
22. Uzuncarsili, Tarih, IV, I, 323-24; Gorceix, 181; Grenville, 14.
23. Shay, 34.
24. Ibid., 37.
25. Subhi, Sami and Sakir, 34 a-b; Uzuncarsih, Tarih, VI, 1, 325-26; Joseph von Hammer-
Purgstall, Histoire de I'empire ottoman depuis son originejusqu'a nosjours, J. J. Hellert, tr. (18
vols., Paris, 1835-43), XIV, 262-63, 296-97.
26. Subhi, Sami and Sakir, 63b-65b; Hammer, XIV, 302-3.
27. Shay, 38; Uzuncarsih, Tarih. IV, I, 323-25, 331-34.
28. Shaw, History, I, 244-45.

29. Uzuncarsih, Tarih, IV, 1,341-43; Bekir Sitki Baykal and Abdiilkadir Karahan, 'Ragib Pasa',
IA, IX, 594-98.
30. Cited in Berkes, Secularism, 63.
31. Toderini, III, 214. For a discussion of tnis 'period of reaction', see Berkes, Secularism,
32. Cf. Ulucay and Kartekin, 20.
33. Cf. Ergin. II, 265.
34. Uzuncarsih. Tarih, IV, I, 479; Hammer, Histoire, XVI, 279 and ff.
35. Uzuncarsih, Tarih, IV, I, 480; Adnan-Adivar, Him, 181n.
36. The old school, although never officially closed, had stopped operating by now. Francois de
Tott, Memoirs of Baron de Tott (2 vols., London, 1785), II, 179.
37. Mustafa Nuri, Netaic-ul-Vukuat (4 vols., Istanbul, 1294-1327/1877-1909), IV, 7;
Uzuncar$ih, Tarih, IV, I, 481-83; Ergin, II, 265-66; Toderini, I, 162-65; Leonce Pingaud,
Choiseul-Gouffler, La France en Orient sous Louis XVI (Paris, 1887), 98.
38. The text published in 1786 consisted of the collected lectures, translated into Turkish, of the
French instructor Jean de Lafitte-Clave. Its title: 'Principles of Knowledge Concerning the
Organization of an Army and its Temporary Fortification' (Usul-ul-Maariffi tertib-i Ordu ve
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Tahsinuhii Muvakkaten). Copies of this rare text, consisting of 80 folios and numerous plates
and bound in two volumes, are found at Topkapi Saray Library (nos. 35, 570 and 934). In
1787 were printed the lectures of the instructor Laurent-Jean-Francois Truguet, entitled
'Principles of Knowledge Concerning the Organization of a Navy and Naval Maneuvers'
Usul-ul-Maariffifenn-i Vech-i Tasnif-i Sefain-i Donanma ve Fenn-i Tedbir-iHarekatiha). The
book contains 93 folios and 13 plates. Cf. Uzuncarjih, Tarih, IV, I, 485-86; Pingaud, 99;
Abdulhak Adnan-Adivar, La Science chez les Turcs Ottomans (Paris, 1939), 155.
39. Pingaud, 84.
40. This unit was referred to at the time as Sur'at topcusu, literally meaning 'speed artillery'. The
Ottoman military historian §evket explains this term as meaning the same as sahra topcusu,
or field artillery. Cf. Mahmud §evket, Osmanli Teskildt ve kiyafet Askeriyesi (two parts,
Istanbul, 1325/1907), II, 4.
41. A. Manucy, Artillery Through the Ages (Washington. D.C., 1949), 10-12.
42. Cevdet, II (1292/1875), 192-93, 283-85; Nuri, IV, 5-6; Uzuncarsih, Kapukulu, II, 67-68.
43. Pingaud, 95 and ff.
44. Ibid., 103.
45. Uzuncarsili, Tarih, IV, I, 483-84.
46. Pingaud, 101.
47. Ibid., 100-101.
48. Cezayirli Hasan served briefly also as grand vezir from December 1789 until his death in
March 1790.
49. Uzuncarsih, Tarih. IV, I, 474.
50. Cevdet, III (1303/1886), 67-69; Uzuncarsih, Kapukulu, I, 494-95; II, 120, 132-33. For
detailed information on Halil Hamid's reforms see: I. H. Uzuncarsih, 'Sadrazam Halil
Hamit Pasa', Turkiyat Mecmuasi, V (1936), 213-67; a summary is found in his Tarih, IV, I,
51. Uzuncarsih, Tarih, IV, I, 476-77; Cevdet, III, 2-3; William Eaton, A Survey of the Turkish
Empire (2nd ed., London, 1799), 85-90.
52. Uzuncarsih, Tarih, IV, I, 474.
53. Inalcik, 'Centralization', 48-50.
54. Uzuncarsili, Tarih, IV, I, 509-18.
55. Cf. Shaw, History, I, 253-54.
56. Nuri, IV, 6.
57. Pingaud, 212.
58. Charles Issawi, 'The Ottoman Empire in the European Economy, 1600-1914. Some
Observations and Many Questions', in Kemal H. Karpat (ed.), The Ottoman State and its
Place in World History (Leiden, 1974), 107.
59. Cf. ibid., 108-10.
60. Eton, 39-47.
61. Cited in Charles Issawi, 'Population and Resources in the Ottoman Empire and Iran', in
Thomas Naff and Roger Owen (eds.), Studies in Eighteenth Century Islamic History
(Carbondale, 111., 1977), 388-89, note 46.

62. Ibid. This information appears to tally with Ottoman estimates of state revenues in the 1820s
and 1830s. An informed Ottoman source Kececizade Izzet Molla estimated the annual
revenue in 1827 at 200 million kurus. (See his Layiha, ms. no. K. 337 in the Cevdet
Manuscript Collection, Belediye Library, Istanbul, p. 64.) This amount was equal to about
3.5 million British pounds (Cf. Charles White, Three Years in Constantinople, etc., 3 vols.,
1846. Vol. II, pp. 74-76, contains a table of the rates of exchange of the British pound to the
Ottoman kurus, from 1814 to 1843).
Nafiz Pa§a who served as Finance Minister during the reigns of Mahmud II and
Abdtilmecid I estimated the annual revenue in the late 1830s at 300 million kuriif (Nuri, IV,
114) at that time equal to about 3 million British pounds. The complexities of Ottoman state
finances cannot be discussed here. It should be noted, however, that the Ottoman
government was the recipient of 'income' also in kind and in services. With the possible
exception of the last estimate which is supported by sketchy evidence found in the archives
(for example: Topkapi Saray Archives, Istanbul, register no. D 3086 and document no. E
3082), the figures quoted above cannot be considered as conclusive. They do, however,
indicate a remarkable consistency and the derived 'curve' corresponds to our information
regarding the strength of the central government and its ability to control sources of
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revenue. In the absence of more reliable information, the following summary may be of

Revenue in million
Source Period kuru§ pounds Remarks

Eton 1776 44.9 4.5 Overall decline of state revenues due
Canning 'before 1794' 20 7 to disruptive effect of foreign wars,
Canning 1809 50 2.25 uprisings and the emergence of in-
dependent local rulers.
Kejecizade 1827 200 3.5 Rise in revenues due to partially
successful centralizing policies of
Mahmud II and relative stability.
Nafiz late 1830s 300 3.0 Nominal revenue increase, but prob-
able decline in real value. Renewed
uprisings in Bosnia, Macedonia, Ana-
tolia and Iraq. Loss of Egypt, Syria
and Greece; but extractive ability of
state increases.

63. Cited in Issawi, 'Population and Resources', 388-89, note 46.
64. Thomas Thornton, The Present State of Turkey, etc. (2nd ed., 2 vols., London, 1809), II,
65. Stanford J. Shaw, Between Old and New: The Ottoman Empire under Sultan Selim III,
1789-1807, Cambridge, Mass., 1971; and his more specialized articles: 'The Established
Ottoman Army Corps under Sultan Selim III (1789-1807)', Der Islam, 40 (1965), 142-84;
'The Origins of Ottoman Military Reform: The Nizam-i Cedid Army of Sultan Selim III',
Journal of Modern History, 37 (1965), 291-306; 'Selim III and the Ottoman Navy', Turcica:
Revue a"Etudes Turques, I (1969), 212-41.
66. Cf. Enver Ziya Karal, Osmanlt Tarihi, V. Cilt: 1789-1856 (2nd ed., Ankara, 1961), 69.
67. Eton, 98-100; Ulucay and Kartekin, 34-41; Ergin, II, 273-76.
68. Cf. Inalcik, 'Centralization', 32-48.
69. Ibid., 51.
70. Thomas Naff, 'Introduction', in Naff and Owen (eds.), op. cit., 12.
71. Eton, 100-101.
72. Stanley Lane-Poole, The Life of the Right Honourable Stratford Canning (2 vols., London,
1888), I, 49.

73. Mehmed Ataullah §anizade, Tarih-i Sanizade (4 vols., Istanbul, 1290-91/1872-74), I,
63-65; Cevdet, IX (1292/1875), 5-7.
74. Uriel Heyd, 'The Ottoman Ulema and Westernization in the Time of Selim III and Mahmud
II', Scripta Hierosolymitana, IX (Jerusalem, 1961), 63-96.
75. AvigdorLevy, 'The Ottoman Ulemaand the Military Reforms of Sultan Mahmud II', Asian
and African Studies, VII (Jerusalem, 1971), 13-39.).
76. Cevdet, III (1303/1886), 67; Shaw, Old and New, 175.
77. Wright, Turkish text, 12-13. Among modern scholars Berkes has well captured in a concise
paragraph the significance of the Sultan's position in the eighteenth century:
[The Sultan] was the direct representative or shadow of God in the world. The title
Khalifa (Caliph) . . . did not imply successorship to the Prophet . . . The Ottoman
ruler did not claim divine nature or any prophetic attribute; but he was viewed as
being different from other mortals since he held the highest position in the divine
arrangement of the world . . . not the person but the position was invested with value.
[The Sultan] had no personal charisma
78. Wright, 64-65.
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79. Cf. report by the British ambassador Ainslie of 1790, cited in Issawi, 'Population and
Resources', 158.
80. See note 60 above.
81. Nur Yalman, 'Some Observations on Secularism in Islam: The Cultural Revolution in
Turkey', Daedalus, vol. 102, no. 1 (Winter 1973), 164.