Civilizations in Crisis: Ottomas, Egypt, and China

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Ottoman Empire and Egypt

As industrialzed European nations were expanding their imperial possessions the Ottoman Empire and Egypt were in decline.
As you read pages 593-604 take notes in the chart below. Be sure to focus on causes of decline, European inervention and reform programs

Ottoman Retreat and the Birth of Turkey
Western Intrusions and Crisis: Egypt
  • The weakened rulers of the empire left the way open for power struggles among officials, religious experts, and Janissary commanders.
  • Provincial administrators and landholders colluded to drain revenue from the central treasury.
  • Lack of technological innovations caused issues
  • The general economy suffered from competition with the West as imported goods ruined local industry.
  • European rivals took advantage of Ottoman weakness.
  • The Austrians pushed the Ottomans from Hungary and the northern Balkans.
  • The Ottomans survived the continuing defeats partly because the European powers feared the consequences of territorial division among the victors.
  • The British propped up the Ottomans during the latter nineteenth century to prevent the Russians from reaching the Mediterranean.
  • The weakened empire was preserved by internal reform. Selim III’s modest military and administrative reform. Young-Turk reform.
  • Mahmud II was more successful. With the help of European advisors, he built a professional army that destroyed the Janissaries in 1826.
  • Mahmud II then launched far-reaching reforms patterned on Western models.
MI: Internal problems and rise of nationalistic ideas caused decline.
Europeans British control of Suez canal
+ Balkan nationalism + decline of Ottomans.
  • Napoleon’s victory over the Ottoman Mamluk vassals in Egypt destroyed the existing local power balance.
  • The easy victory of the French demonstrated the vulnerability of Muslim regions before European power.
  • When the British forced French withdrawal, an Albanian Ottoman officer, Muhammad Ali, emerged as Egypt’s ruler by 1811.
  • He introduced European military reforms and created a powerful army and navy that freed him from dependence on his nominal Ottoman overlord.
  • Muhammad Ali also attempted, with limited success, to modernize Egypt’s economy through reforms in agriculture, infrastructure, education, and industry.
  • To keep Egypt secure, Muhammad Ali allied with the powerful rural landlords to control the peasantry.
  • The landlords resisted his reform efforts and remained a hereditary, entrenched class.
  • The persisting difference between the rival interpretations damaged Muslim ability to meet the European threat.
  • The growing Egyptian foreign debt and the strategic importance of the Suez Canal stimulated British and French thoughts of intervention.
  • Suez Canal stressed borowing and keep input within
  • in Muhammad Achmad, a religious figure known as the Mahdi.
  • He proclaimed a jihad against the Egyptians and British that would return Islam to its original purity.

In Depth:

Some general patterns have been associated with the decline of civilizations: internal weakness and external pressures; slow and vulnerable communications systems; ethnic, religious, and regional differences; corruption and the pursuit of pleasure. Nomads took advantage of such weaknesses, but rarely did a neighboring civilization play a major role in the decline of another. The European rise to world dominance from the eighteenth century fundamentally changed the patterns of the rise and fall of civilizations. In the Americas, European military acts and diseases destroyed existing civilizations. African and Asian civilizations were able to withstand the early European arrival, but the latter’s continuing development by the end of the eighteenth century made them dominant. The subordinate civilizations reacted differently.


Notes on The fall of Chinese dynasty

The Rise and fall of the Qing Empire in China
MI: The Manchu leader Nurhaci (1559-1626) united the tribes of his region into a formidable fighting force that conquered much of Manchuria and drove back the Chinese living to the north of the Great Wall.
  • The Manchu elite increasingly adopted Chinese ways in bureaucracy and court ceremonies, there were many of the Chinese scholar-gentry entered Manchu service.
  • The Manchu seized advantage of the weakness of the Ming dynasty to enter China and seize control of Beijing in 1644.
  • Within two decades, the Manchu were masters of China, as the Qing dynasty, they ruled an area larger than any previous dynasty had, except the Tang.
  • The Manchu retained much of the political system of the Ming, although they assumed a more direct role in appointing local officials and reduced their tax exemptions.
  • The Chinese and Manchu officials were paired at the highest posts.
  • The examination system continued and the rulers were generous patrons of the arts and employed scholars to compile great encyclopedias of Chinese learning.

Economy and Society in the Early Centuries of Qing Rule
MI: The Manchu also maintained the social system of the Ming, the values of respect for rank and acceptance of hierarchy were emphasized.
  • The extended family remained the core unit among the elite. Women continued under the dominance of elder men.
  • Their lives centered on the household. Daughters were less wanted than sons, and female probably rose during this period.
  • Lower-class women continued to work in fields and markets.
  • The Manchu attempted to alleviate rural distress and unrest through decreasing tax and labor burdens; repairing roads, dikes, and irrigation systems; and limiting land accumulation by the elite.
  • Population growth and the lack of available land checked the success of the reform efforts.
  • Landlords increased their holdings and widened the gap between rural classes, the commercial and urban expansion increased under the peaceful conditions of the first century and during half of Manchu rule.
  • Until the end of the eighteenth century, the influx of silver in payment for exports created a favorable balance of payments.
  • European traders came to Canton, and Chinese merchants traveled overseas.
  • A new group of merchants, the compradors, who specialized in the import-export trade along the southern coast, were a major link between China and the outside world.

Rot from Within: Bureaucratic Breakdown and Social Disintegration
MI: By the late eighteenth century, the Qing was in decline. The exam system, which provided able bureaucrats, was filled by cheating and favorites.
  • Positions in government service were seen as a method of gaining influence and building family fortunes.
  • The resulting revenue loss caused a weakening of the military and deterioration of the dikes confining the Yellow River.
  • By the middle of the nineteenth century, flooding left millions of peasants without resources.
  • Throughout the empire mass migrations and banditry increased social unrest.
  • The existing Chinese social and economic systems could not cope with the changes stemming from the greatly increased population resulting from the introduction of American crops.

Barbarians at the Southern Gates: The Opium War and After
MI: The Manchus continued to treat Europeans as just another type of barbarian, although the advances by Europeans in science and industry made them dangerous rivals to the empire.
  • Confrontation occurred over the importation of opium from India into China.
  • The British had lacked commodities, apart from silver, to exchange for Chinese goods.
  • Opium reversed the trade balance in their favor, but the Chinese saw the trade as a threat to their economy and social order.
  • Silver left the country and opium addiction became rampant the government efforts to check the problem failed until the 1830s, when an important official, Lin Zexu, came to end the trade at Canton and nearby.
  • He blockaded European trading areas and destroyed opium; the British merchants demanded and received military intervention.
  • War began in 1839; the Chinese were defeated on sea and land and sued for peace. Another conflict ended similarly in the 1850s.
  • The settlement after the first war awarded Hong Kong to the British and opened other ports to European trade and residence.
  • By the 1890s, ninety ports were open and foreigners had gained long-term leases over ports and surrounding territory.
  • Opium continued to pour into China. By the middle of the century, British officials managed China’s foreign trade and customs, and the court had to accept European ambassadors.

A Civilization at Risk: Rebellion and Failed Reforms
MI: The dislocations caused by the European incursions spawned a massive rebellion in southern China during the 1850s and 1860s.
  • A semi-Christian prophet, Hong Xiuquan, began the Taiping Rebellion. The dissidents offered programs of social reform, land redistribution, and liberation of women.
  • They attacked the traditional Chinese elite. The provincial gentry rallied to the Qing and assisted in the defeat of the rebellion.
  • In the last decades of the century, dynamic provincial leaders led a “self-strengthening” movement aimed at countering the challenge of the West.
  • They encouraged foreign investment in railways and factories and military modernization, they wanted only to preserve the existing order, not to transform it.
  • Although they professed loyalty to the dynasty, the Manchu increasingly were unable to control the provinces.
  • Despite a defeat by Japan in 1894-1895, the Manchu and their allies among the scholar-gentry resisted reform.
  • The last decades of the dynasty were dominated by the dowager empress, Cixi; in 1898 she crushed a serious reform effort.
  • The involvement of members of the royal household in the Boxer Rebellion further weakened China.


The fall of the Qing: The End of a Civilization?
MI: After the defeat of the Taipings, resistance to the dynasty centered in secret societies.
The revolts they inspired failed, but they were a training ground for more serious resistance.
  • By the end of the century, sons of the scholar-gentry and compradors became involved in plots to overthrow the regime and to create a government modeled on that of the West.
  • Sun Yat-sen was one of their most articulate leaders,the revolutions were deeply hostile to European involvement in Chinese affairs.
  • Sporadic outbursts failed until 1911, a spreading rebellion forced the abdication (formal resignation) of the last Manchu in 1912 and led to the establishment of a republican government.
  • The ending of the civil service exams in 1905 was as important a watershed for Chinese civilization as the fall of the Qing in 1912.
  • This step signified the ending of the use of Confucian values as a base for governing society.
  • The era of the scholar-gentry had closed. Nonetheless, many Confucian attitudes survived to influence developments in the newly emerging China.