Essay On in What Ways Were Arab Cities in the 19th Century the Centers of an Arab/Ottoman World?

Published: 2022/01/11
Number of words: 2908


The Tanzimat period reorganised the Ottoman Empire and had a significant influence on previously conquered Arab cities. In this paper I will argue that the’ politics of notables’ and the Ottoman influence on the Arab cities in the 19th century has permanently changed the way of organising cities. Furthermore, Arab cities became centres of economic growth, dynamic intellectual activity, cultural innovation and urban planning. I will dig into the urban history of the Arab cities to prove that this type of politics was certainly common for Arab cities in the 19th century.

The urban politics of the Ottoman provinces cannot be understood without looking at this in terms of a ‘politics of notables’ Urban notables played a crucial role in the relations between Istanbul and Arab provinces. Their patronage networks as well as relations to the countryside and the central administration centralised the power in the cities. Certainly, the core of the power of the notables was derived from Istanbul not from their independent position in society. The Ottomans wanted to preserve good local customs; hence, the position and influence in Arab cities grew up (Zielonka, 2012). The Ottomans were the one who allowed the notables to have enoughfreedom of political action they could impose limits or exercise power. According to Hourani the aims of the Ottomans were slightly different. Although, there were some aims fulfilled – it was impossible to carried them out completely.

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In the Arab provinces the ruling pattern and the way of exercising power was very similar. The power was distributed amongst three groups the ‘ulama, the leaders of the local garrison and secular notables. Urban elites were seen at the heart of the socio-political transformation and it was they who negotiated, organised and exploited the partial integration of the regional economies into the world market, the introduction of new rules of law and the rise of new ideologies (Dağli, 2013).

It becomes understandable that cities were in a key socio-economic position even if the economy remained mainly an agrarian one. Because of the connection between the urban and rural leaders, there was huge power deficit in the region. Elites collected and spent taxes, this developed into a significant fiscal sector, and its is believed that the amount of money collected compared to that of the imperial treasury, which gave strength and wealth to Arab provinces (Dağli, 2013). Hence, it is clear that the Ottoman political system worked to the advantage of the landowner-bureaucrats in the Arab provinces.

Practice of Integration within the Empire

Until in recent times, the view of the Ottoman Empire had two perspectives. Some of the scholars argue that the rule of the country was due to its contemporary leaders. They saw that these leaders were visionary and enlightened to pursue modernization. However, other scholars attribute this fact due to a driving force from foreigners to develop a constitution (Matthee, 2015). They argue that these forces had an influence in the formation of the ottoman parliament and the fulfilment in the promulgation of the current constitution.

In the year 1876, the parliament of the Othman promulgated the constitution. Some scholars argue that the Ottoman rule came because of an organization of the British government. Rulers of the region were weary of foreign nations military that they avoided British influence. However, in order to hide, these leaders pretended to be reform centred. One must come to the realization that ottoman politicians and politics were not centred on true democracy (Aytekin, 2013).. These politicians saw no need of true democracy or equity. In relation to this influence Abulhamid II rule was a representation of a true politicians of the Ottoman extract. Found documents reveal that the arrangement of the Tanzimit was a deliberate collaboration of foreign nations and the Empire (Matthee, 2015).

These details reveal that the most notable players of the agreements were France as well as Britain. Others argue that this leadership structure came as a localized idea. They argue that the empire came from forces with the community and it took a lot of time. Some scholars argue that in order to find out how the empire found their strategy, they might look at the history of the region before Ottoman rule. The leadership of the region borrowed their model from previous traditional ones (Rucker-Chang, 2014). They argue that it was not a complete adaptation of foreign models of governance.

The process of integration within the empire depended on Local petitions as well as model provinces. From such studies of Ancient Ottoman rule we can see that the state borrowed from its own traditional practices. The practices of leadership have its roots on past events of the community. Arguments against this claim with a reason that it is a depiction of western power influence needs substantiation. The Capital had now cultivated its relations with provincial authority. However, in practicing its authority the ottoman did not face rejection from majority of its citizens (Matthee, 2015). There were incidences when the empire made agreements with local and provincial council.

There was also certain period where local practices became assimilated to the ottoman rule. It is not true that power was at every region of the Empire. Although the Empire was supposed to follow localization aspects, they ruled from its palace. Politics in the region was now centralized and local politics depended on the Empire influence. It was at this level that war began. It was at this period when the Empire took power and centralized its authority. It was during the nineteen century that the Ottoman Empire designed its Structure. The Empire structure of leadership came from centralization reforms (Peker, 2002).

According to these reforms, the power provides its citizens some sense of locality. In this sense the Ottoman Empire develops is ruling units that include political aspects, cultural as well as urban features. The ottoman increased its revenue by concentrating in local region. This region improved its revenue and so did their power. The political factors of the nation led to many power struggles that would now affect the Empire (Peker, 2002). By the end of the nineteenth century, political events in Istanbul the capital of the nation had decisive effects on local provinces.

These regions were keen to understand political changes taking place because of Sultan’s decision. There was a decision by this leader to centralize its power at the capital. There was scrutiny on bureaucrats’ action in aligning imperial power to local power. Before these reforms took at various regions, war broke out in Istanbul itself. There were pockets of war almost the entire area of the Empire (Zielonka, 2012). In providing direction for the country, the Ottoman Empire tried to Utilize European technology and methods.

This war led to segregation between the people. Jews and Christians were killed in the conflict while many projects came to its end prematurely. However, the war ended with the rise of Mahmud II who became who became Ottoman emperor to the throne. During the conflict that took place in the city, People from the province marched to the capital to save the government (Culcasi, 2014).

By this time, the Ottoman Empire was unable to manage its military. The management of the government was difficult that bureaucrats had to reorganize government’s control. Provincial power were now sharing stake in the revenue of the empire. The Empire gave control of provinces to local notables. This was one of the decisive positions in winning local support and save Empire’s revenue (Rucker-Chang, 2014). During its progression, the Empire faced various challenges and wars that left its structure feeble. However, their relations with local provinces were still intact. Nevertheless, local provinces had structures to manage their activities. The Empire had to reorganize the structures of local provinces.

In order to accomplish this mission, the Ottoman Empire used four strategies. The first strategy was sending individuals for fact-finding missions in provinces. The other method was the use of petition that would be use by local populations. The other strategy was the setting of local council that would look at relations with local provinces (Matthee, 2015). The next strategy that the Empire took was the development of model provinces.

Ottoman Reforms and Politics of Notables

The history of the Ottoman Empire may be found in Islamic literature and from information of archaeological evidence. Scholars argue that the Ottoman Empire had become weak at provinces. Others say that the Empire had its control in provinces but which was unseen. European nations had an influence in the politics of the region in some perspective. For example, the French put Ali to power (Peker, 2002).

This reaction plus other factors on the urban regions had an influence on Ottoman’s politics. This influence refers to politics of the notables who graced urban regions. Urban dwellers of the period held various influence to the society (Culcasi, 2014). Notable held almost all-economic strength in the Ottoman Empire. For example, artists produced their art for nobles. While in countryside, they had an influence on the production of foodstuff. Most notables in the Empire lived in the city because of their ability to manage city investments as well as rural interests (Peker, 2002).

Notables in the Empire have political action powers. These cities are seen as self governed while the noble are their rulers. Even though the Ottoman government wields power in urban regions but notables have a way of influencing. The other influence of notable comes from Muslim history. According to this history, the monarch ruled the hinterland with cooperation with other notables. The politics of Istanbul was the politics of notables. This form of politics stems from individuals who formed the government. These leaders represent servants of the ruler. Therefore, in their ranks fought for control of power.

In the provincial levels of the country power struggles took place between individuals of diverse culture, ethnicity as well as religion. Notables refer to intermediary persons from government to citizens. At the period it concentrated on civil servants (Zielonka, 2012). In Arabic city, such leaders include spiritual persons who derived influence from their faith. The other category of leaders came from leaders of garrisons. The other category of notables is secular notables.

The politics of the Notable had formidable influence on the Empire. The struggles between notables in the region had negative implications to the Empire. This war led to a collapse of control making the Empire transform its management style. Many of the Ottoman regions abolished the power of Notables (Rucker-Chang, 2014). This also meant the ruler could make various political actions possible. The abolishment of the condition aims to allow for fulfilment of reforms. One of the reforms for fulfilment was the establishment of a centralised unit.

However, in application of such strategies faced objection from many citizens’ dues to the influence of an absolute ruler on politics of the region. The main basis for the power struggle was on foodstuff and resource management. With the advent of this reforms notables fought for their freedom. Most notables threw their attention against reforms due their own personal reforms.

Centralized Power

In relation to centralization of power, the Ottoman Empire ruled its citizens from the capital of Istanbul. The centralization of power even touches on property management. The Empire concentrated on the management of Waaf property. The property came under the management of local administrators. An Administrator in such situation is tasked with the collection of rent. The other functions in the government came under the management of administrators (Zielonka, 2012).Such administrators waged huge power over various sectors and over domains in the society. The administrators apply their power through a system of checks and balance.

The capital Istanbul is a determining factor in providing basis for checks and balance. It is therefore important to note that Istanbul had important influence on power of administrators. The ottoman transforms its power base after complains and employ assistance to administrators. This means that power is allocated to various additional levels. The Ottoman Empire understood that various changes in its areas of control needed change in strategies (Matthee, 2015). The government develops diverse areas of power. Individuals can now reach government control regions with ease. Delegation of power to various units meant that social, cultural and religion influences did not become a reason for strive.

Modernization and Centralized Power

Various events in the government led to consolidation of power to Damascus. Events in the Ottoman Empire had an influence on land ownership. There had been a growth in private land ownership. This eventuality led to decomposition and reorganization. There is reorganization of political unions to include the rural elite and notables from urban regions. During the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire recognised the influence of commercialization (Matthee, 2015). This led to an influx of European goods. The government witnessed a spread of cash crops. With this, the government of the ottoman produced various policies that enforced land allocation and acquisition. There were other individuals who hand control over and resources. There were individuals of the religious groups and on the government side who used their position to enrich their farmers. These individuals allocated themselves and their families’ parcels of land (Weiker, 1968).

In the region, few wealthy families and individuals exclusively held land. The government utilized various strategies in controlling land. Since wealthy individuals hold majority of land, the Empire formulated a number of land codes. For example, the Ottoman transformed its Tax level. A case takes place where peasant farmers get fined for not utilizing their land for over three years (Zielonka, 2012). Modernization had various impacts on the society. Modernization had an influence on education and subsequently religion. Modern schools became popular in the Empire providing opportunity for secular education ideals. Muslim elite children went to these schools. This ploy was done in ensuring that their sons took positions in the public services. It was during this period that Christian missionaries began various schools (Peker, 2002).

Educational programs enabled individuals fill key technical positions in the government. They were now able to expand their connections with European connections. School was also a important system of promoting the judicial system. Damascus also proved to be a decisive town. The Empire had developed various councils where notables were able to make decisions. The authority saw the development of Municipal councils as supreme in the town.


The Ottoman Empire in the nineteen century saw integration of various units. One can state that Arabs saw their towns with great importance. Towns were seen as region of governance. In these cities, one can state that notables had an influence on government’s initiatives. Practice of integration between Government and local authority provides various advantageous benefits. The integration process takes place between the Imperial powers to local interest. The mode of communication depends on intermediaries. These intermediaries provide the link between top officials and the imperial (Peker, 2002). The ottoman during its rule faced various challenges. Some of these problems come from political forces. For example, the notables in the region felt that authority was stepping on its privileges.

Because of wars between provinces and the Imperial various changes occur. This war eventually ends with a split between the empire and provincial control. With the void brought about due to the absence of provincial administration the Empire falls encouraging the development of counter strategies. The Ottoman understands the significance of Arab towns thus develop inspection tour teams. Inspection teams provide information on ways of saving a falling Empire. The other strategies are development of model provinces and local petitions. The Ottoman Empire utilizes centralized government system (Matthee, 2015). The Ottoman Empire understood that various changes in its areas of control needed change in strategies. The government develops diverse areas of power.

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Individuals can now reach government control regions with ease. Delegation of power to various units meant that social, cultural and religion influences did not become a reason for strive. City investments as well as rural interests became a matter of contention (Rucker-Chang, 2014). Notables in the Empire have political action powers. These cities are seen as self governed while the noble are their rulers.

Even though the Ottoman government wields power in urban regions but notables have a way of influencing. However, a look into the management of the Ottoman Empire reveals the position of notables. Notables had an influence in the politics of the day. These individuals have their interest in the nation and they have been effective in enforcing reforms. In respect to Notables, the Ottoman Empire took their rights of power. This was due to their intention in discouraging political wars within its ranks.

Reference list

Matthee, R 2015. ‘Relations between the Center and the Periphery in Safavid Iran: The Western Borderlands v. the Eastern Frontier Zone’, Historian, 77, 3, pp. 431-463.

Rucker-Chang, S 2014. ‘The Turkish Connection: Neo-Ottoman Influence in Post-Dayton Bosnia’, Journal Of Muslim Minority Affairs, 34, 2, pp. 152-164.

Peker, AU 2002. ‘Western Influences on the Ottoman Empire and Occidentalism in the Architecture of Istanbul’, Eighteenth-Century Life, 26, 3, p. 139.

Dağli, M 2013. ‘The Limits of Ottoman Pragmatism’, History & Theory, 52, 2, Pp. 194-213.

Weiker, WF 1968. ‘The Ottoman Bureaucracy: Modernization and Reform’, Administrative Science Quarterly, 13, 3, pp. 451-470.

Aytekin, EA 2013. ‘Tax Revolts During the Tanzimat Period (1839–1876) and Before the Young Turk Revolution (1904–1908): Popular Protest and State Formation in the Late Ottoman Empire’, Journal of Policy History, 25, 3, pp. 308-333.

Culcasi, K 2014. ‘Disordered Ordering: Mapping the Divisions of the Ottoman Empire’, Cartographica, 49, 1, pp. 2-17.

Zielonka, J 2012. ‘Empires and the Modern International System’, Geopolitics, 17, 3, pp. 502-525.

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