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Chapter 16 The Muslim Empires. Ottoman Empire's Growth and Decline

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Chapter 16

The Muslim Empires


Ottoman Empire's Growth and Decline

1. The Ottomans are named after a Turkish emir named Osman (1299-1326) who founded a dynasty when he set up a border state on the Byzantine frontier in western Anatolia about 1288. Taking advantage of the collapse of the empire of the Seljuk Turks, the Ottomans began expansion in the fourteenth century.

2. In 1345 Ottoman forces crossed into the Balkans where they were able to take advantage of the weakness created by the Black Death. At Kossovo in 1389 the Ottomans decisively defeated Christian Balkan forces. The Christians were again routed at Nicopolis in 1396.

3. Mehmet II (1451-1481) turned his attention on Constantinople (Istanbul). He assembled a fleet at Gallipoli, amassed armaments, and built the fortress of Rumeli Hisar on the European shore of the Bosporus. In April 1453 the siege began. Fifty-four days later, May 29, 1453, the city walls were breached and Constantinople fell. Renamed Istanbul, it was to be the new capital. Considering themselves the successors to the Byzantine emperors, the Ottomans began further imperialistic expans~on. Anatolia was conquered in the east and in the west the Ottomans drove into the Aegean and then up the Adriatic coast. In 1480 the Italian port of Oranto was taken. Wallachia in the north was conquered in 1476 but the resistance from the Hungarians kept the Ottomans in check thereby preventing them from going up the Danube valley.

4. South of Asia Minor, the Ottomans conquered Egypt in 1517 and held Syria and Palestine by 1526. Throughout the rest of the century attacks would be pressed in North Africa until it too was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.

5. In 1521, after consolidating their eastern provinces, the Ottomans under Suleiman I (1520-1566), the Magnificent, began a thrust up the Danube and gained the Serbian capital of Belgrade. At the battle of Nohacs in 1526 the Hungarians were crushed. Three years later, Vienna was under siege. The Turkish forces withdrew, however, due to the insistence of the Janissaries (the elite, professional soldiers of the Ottoman army) that they return home before winter.

6. In 1571 a large Turkish fleet was smashed at Lepanto by an armada of over two hundred ships from Spain, Venice, and the papacy. Although defeated, the Turks rebuilt their fleet and continued to exercise control over the Mediterranean.

7. The Ottomans were on the move again in the seventeenth century across the Hungarian plain and by 1683 were laying siege to Vienna. Defeated by a large united Christian force that used heavy artillery (the Turks had none), the Ottomans withdrew. In the Peace of Karlowitz in 1699 the Turks gave up Hungary and Transylvania to Austria.


1. What successes and failures did the Ottomans have in their expansion up to the end of the fifteenth century?

2. What was the driving force for Ottoman expansion?

3. What was the threat of Ottoman expansion to Europe?

The Ottoman Empire’s Growth and Decline

The Ottoman Empire
    • Osman (1280-1326)
      • Osmanli (Ottoman) dynasty
    • Murad I (1360-1389)
      • Janissaries
      • Battle of Kossovo, 1389
    • Bayazid I(1389-1402)
      • Tammerlane
    • Mehmet II (1451-1481)
      • Constantinople, 1453
Expansion of the Ottoman Empire
    • Selim I (1512-1520)
    • Expansion in Europe
      • Suleyman I the Magnificent (1520-1566)
        • Battle of Mohács, 1526
        • Vienna, 1529
        • Vienna, 1683
  • Nature of Turkish Rule
    • Sultan
    • Topkapi Palace
      • harem
      • devshirme
      • vezir
Religion and Society in the Ottoman World
    • Caliph
    • Sufism
    • Non-Muslims
    • Millet
    • Women
  • Decline of the Ottomans
    • Battle of Carlowitz, 1699
    • Corruption
    • Weak rulers
  • Ottoman Art
    • Hagia Sopia
    • Iznik pottery

The Ottoman and Safavid Empires

1. The Safavids were rooted in the small provincial town of Ardabil in Azerbaijan west of the Caspian Sea. A Sufi order here was called Safavid after its first leader Safi al-Din, a Sunni, who died in 1334. Due to political chaos, the Safavid family maintained local autonomy. Sometime after 1392, they became Shi'ites and by the 1450s were seeking political power, raiding into Christian Georgia. Instrumental in the rise of the Safavid would be the acceptance of Shi'ism in western Iran and eastern Asia Minor by Turkoman tribes. As Sunni Muslims, the Ottomans clashed with the Shi'ite Safavids over domination of Islamic territories and Islamic doctrines.

2. The founder of the Safavid dynasty was Isma'il (1502-1524) who militarily extended Safavid power. In 1501 Armenia (southwest of the Black Sea) and Azerbaijan were seized by Isma'il and he was proclaimed shah of Tabriz. He declared Shi'ism the official and compulsory religion of his new empire. This was followed by gains in central and southern Iran in 1503, most of the Tigris-Euphrates basin in 1504, Baghdad (on the Tigris) and southwestern Iran in 1508, and by 1512 had taken from the Uzbek Turks all of eastern Iran between the Oxus River and the Arabian Sea. Isma'il's aggression in the west against the Sunni Ottomans led ta a Safavid defeat northwest of Tabriz in 1514. The defeat gave the Ottomans control of the region and forced the Safavid to move its capital from Tabriz eventually to Isfahan.

3. Isfahan was a magnificent, prosperous city built on trade and industry. By the seventeenth century it had a population of perhaps 600,000. The city contained 162 mosques and 48 colleges and academies. In addition to 273 public baths, gardens, pools, and parks that dotted the landscape, there was a great open square 1680 feet by 522 feet. The two major sources of production were weaving and tile making. Factories employed 25,000 weavers who produced carpets, brocades, and silks. Glazed building tiles were produced by 300 imported Chinese potters. (Sydney Nettleton Fisher and William Ochsenwald, The Middle East, pp. 220-222)

4. Isma'il's successor, Tahmasp I (1524-1576), proved to be weak and lost much of the territory to the powerful Ottoman forces of Suleiman I (1520-1566). The fortunes of the Safavid were revived by Shah Abbas I (1587-1629) who, with the aid of Europeans and a reorganized army, moved against the Uzbeks and Turks to regain territories but was unable to hold them as war against the Ottomans lasted from the 1620s to 1638. A succession of weak leaders after Abbas left the Safavids impotent. In 1722 Shah Hussein (1694-1722) was forced to abdicate as Sunni Afghans captured Isfahan. Persia fell into political and social anarchy and the assassination of Nader Shah in 1747 ended the Safavid dynasty.


1. How did the Safavid expand their empire?

2. How does Isfahan illustrate the wealth of the Safavids?

The Ottoman and Safavid Empires, ca. 1683

The Safavids
    • Shah Ismail (1487-1524)
    • Iran and Iraq
    • Ottomans
    • Shah Abbas I (1587-1629)
    • Shah Hussein (1694-1723)
    • Politics and Society
      • Pyramidal political system, shah at the top
      • Economy
    • Art and literature
      • Isfahan
      • Textiles
      • Painting

The Moghul Empire

1. The founders of the Moghuls were Chaghatay Turks descended from Timur (Timurlane). Originating beyond the Hindu Kush, they were driven out of central Asia in 1504 by the Uzbek Turks. Babur (1483-1530), the founder of the Moghul dynasty, seized Kabul and in 1526 defeated the Afghan king of Delhi.Delhi and Agra were captured and Babur was proclaimed emperor of Hindustan. Babur's son, Humayun (1530-1540, 1555-1556), was unable to hold his legacy and was driven into exile to Persia. With the help of the Safavid shah, Tahmasp (1524-1576), Humayun recaptured Delhi in 1555.

3. One of the greatest rulers in Indian history was Akbar (1556-1605), Humayun's son. Pursuing an aggressive expansionist policy, by the time of Akbar's death the Moghuls controlled the land from the Himalaya Mountains to the Godavari River in central India and from Kashmir to the mouths of the Brahmapatra and Ganges Rivers. Along with Delhi and Agra, newly constructed (1571-1586) Fatchpur Sikri, 26 miles from Agra, also served as an imperial capital.

4. Akbar's son Jahangir (1605-1627) did not possess his father's abilities but did succeed in consolidating Moghul rule in Bengal. Expansion continued under Shah Jahan (1627-1657), Jahangir's son, who waged campaigns on the northwestern frontier of the Hindu Kush and in the Deccan plateau. Shah Jahan founded a new capital at Delhi in 1648 to supersede Agra. When Shah Jahan's wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died delivering her thirteenth child, he ordered construction of the Taj Mahal at Agra as an enduring monument.

5. With no formal procedure for succession, Shah Jahan's two sons struggled for power. The victor was Aurangzeb (1659-1707) who executed his brother and had himself crowned emperor in 1658. His father was imprisoned. Aurangzeb expanded the MoghulEmpire south to Mysore and Marathas in the western Daccan. Heavy-handed policies led to rebellion of the Hindu Marathas who were defeated but nonetheless continued to fight. After Aurangzeb's death they created a confederation of almost all the Deccan states under their leadership.

6. India was opened to European trade by Vasco da Gama's voyage from Lisbon to Calicut, 1497-1499. The Portuguese also established themselves at Goa, Daman, Diu, and Colombo in Ceylon. In 1608 the English arrived at Surat and were granted commercial concessions in 1619. Numerous other commercial centers followed: Fort St. George (Madras) in 1639; Bombay in 1668 (given to England in 1662 when a Portuguese princess married King Charles II) which was leased to the British East India Company; and Fort William (Calcutta) founded by the East India Company. In the 1670s the French East India Company also established numerous settlements includingChandernagore just north of Calcutta and Pondicherry.


1. How did the Moghul empire expand? What was the price of succession?

The Mughal Empire

Mughal Dynasty
    • Babur (1483-1530)
    • Humayun (1530-1556)
    • Akbar (1556-1605)
      • “Gunpowder empire”
      • Religious tolerance
      • Din-I-ilahi (Divine Faith)
      • Administration
      • Legal system
Twilight of the Mughals
    • Jahangir (1605-1628)
    • Shah Jahan (1628-1657)
      • Taj Mahal
    • Augangzeb (1658-1707)
      • Reforms
      • Religious intolerance
      • Rebellions

India in 1805

1. The weakness of Aurangzeb resulted in not only Mughal provincial governors ruling more independently but also the continued revolt of the Marathas who pressed uncontrollably northward. In 1739 the Mughal army was defeated by Persian invaders and Delhi was looted. Constant skirmishes between the Afghans and the Marathas over the Punjab (south of Kashmir) led to a defeat of the Marathas in 1761. Such difficulties left India with no power capable of halting European penetration.

2. The British East India Company traded silver, copper, zinc, and fabrics to the Indians in return for cotton goods, silks, sugar and opium (to be used in the trade with China). An example is that at Madras and Calcutta where Indian cotton goods were shipped to the East Indies and bartered for spices which were then sent back to England.

3. The two major powers contending for control of weakened India were France and Britain. The French arrived in India in the 1670s and established several trading factories. Under the aggressive leadership of Joseph Dupleix, the governor general of Pondicherry, Fort St. George at Madras was captured in 1746 and by 1751 the French had gained control of the Deccan and Carnatic regions. In the meantime, Sir Robert Clive consolidated British control in Bengal by buying off the officers of the French-supported governor and then defeated the governor at Plassey, north of Calcutta, in 1757. Clive followed this with victories in the south against the French as the British navy prevented the arrival of French reinforcements. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 ending the Seven Years' War in Europe recognized British control of much of India.

4. In 1773, fearing too much power in the hands of the British East India Company, the office of governor-general was created to exercise political authority over the territory controlled by the company. Warren Hastings was the governor of Bengal and the first governor general with jurisdiction over Bombay and Madras. Facing him was a coalition of the rulers of Mysore and the Marathas who wished to expel the British. The third governor general, Richard Wellesley (1797-1805) defeated Mysore in 1799 and the Marathas four years later. The impotent Mughals could do nothing but accede to the reality of British control.


1. Why was India unable to resist the British and French incursions?

2. How did the British establish their predominance in India in the eighteenth century?

India in 1805

Impact of Western Power in India
    • The English arrive at Surat in 1608
      • Fort William (Calcutta)
      • Land around future Madras leased in 1639
      • Bombay ceded by Portuguese to England, 1662
      • 1686 war
      • Sir Robert Clive
      • Battle of Plassey, 1757
      • British East India Company
    • French
      • Pondicherry
      • Joseph François Dupleix
Society and Culture under the Mughals
    • Daily life
      • Women
      • sati
      • Commerce
    • Culture
      • Islamic and Persian influences
        • Shah Jahan, Taj Mahal
        • Humayun’s mausoleum
        • Akbar, Red Fort at Agra
          • Fatehpur Sikri
      • Literature
      • Krishna cult