Ottoman Trade Final Update

The Ottoman Empire was the longest lasting single dynasty empire, surviving for roughly six centuries.  Despite its long life, according to traditional historical thought, it had been in decline for almost three and a half centuries.  This is over half of its existence, which does not quite make sense. Historians have focused on this curious issue and numerous reasons have been given for its deterioration, with one of the most significant approaches being through economic and trade policies. I compared the approaches of historians Cemal Kafadar, Donald Quataert, Ilkay Sunar, Avni Önder Hanedar, and Halil Inalcik on the fall of the Ottoman Empire, specifically focusing on issues surrounding Ottoman trade. While they all conclude that trade played an important role in the decline, the specific role is a point of contention.  These historians vary not only on the specific role, but also in terms of “big picture” / “narrow picture” approaches to their studies. While all contribute to our understanding of the connection between trade and decline, some are more successful than others.

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An Analysis on Ottoman Trade and Its Effects on the Longevity of the Empire Update 2

As a quick summary for those of you who haven’t read any of my previous posts, my project this summer is to analyze the effects of Ottoman trade on the longevity of the empire, as the title of my post entails.  It has been traditionally assumed that the Ottoman Empire was in a state of decline from roughly the late 16th century all the way through the 20th century.  This is very long state of decline, that can only be understood through relativity.  In other words, the Ottoman Empire was in a state of decline in comparison to Western Europe.  As I am unable to really look at primary sources due to my limited language abilities, my analysis will be more through historiography than anything else.

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An Analysis of Ottoman Trade and Its Effects on the Longevity of the Empire – Update 1

While researching Ottoman trade, I came to the realization that this was a more difficult topic than I had initially anticipated.  It can be difficult to conduct solid research on such a topic if one does not understand the language.  Unfortunately I do not speak Ottoman, nor Turkish, nor even Arabic, so I was forced to rely on secondary sources as opposed to primary sources for the most part.  At this point I have collected and read most if not all of my secondary sources and composed a rough historiographical essay comparing them.  This essay will provide me with a rough outline for my final product, in which I will come to my own conclusions regarding Ottoman trade.

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An Analysis of Ottoman Trade and its Effects on the Longevity of the Empire

For my freshman Monroe project, I want to research the trade policies set in place by the Ottoman Empire and how they effected its longevity.  Despite its near six century lifespan, the consensus amongst many historians is that the Ottoman Empire fell into a period of decline after the 16th century C.E.  This coincides with the rise of European powers and the discovery of the New World. Many attribute mercantilism with the rise of the West, as the Ottoman Empire stuck with their traditional policy of provisionism. Trade policies on both fronts evolved over the centuries as mercantilism evolved into capitalism and Ottoman policies became more and more domestically focused. Even with these changes, the power struggle between the West and the Ottoman Empire never again swung in Ottoman favor.  This means the Ottoman Empire was in a constant state of decline for roughly 450 years. The distinction that must be made, though, is that it was in a period of decline relative to the West. The decline was not absolute. Due to this misconception, the commonly asked questions regarding the decline of the Ottoman Empire are why it declined or why the West rose to power.  I want to approach this from a different angle. I want to approach the decline of the Ottoman Empire looking specifically at trade policies, but also with a slightly more optimistic mindset. Why did the Ottoman Empire survive for so long? What effect did its trade policies have on its survival?