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About this book

An essential introductory textbook that provides students with an authoritative survey of the history of the Ottoman Empire: from its obscure origins in the fourteenth century, through its rise to world-power status, to the troubled times of the seventeenth century. Colin Imber explores how the Sultans governed their realms and the limits on their authority.

This is an ideal core text for modules on Ottoman History or the Ottoman Empire - or a supplementary text for broader modules on Mediterranean History, Early Modern History, Islamic History, Middle Eastern History, Turkish History or Imperial History - which may be offered at the upper levels of an undergraduate History, Turkish, European Studies or Middle Eastern Studies degree. In addition it is a crucial resource for students who may be studying the Ottoman Empire for the first time as part of a taught postgraduate degree in Early Modern History, Turkish, or Islamic Studies.

Table of Contents

3. Recruitment

Abstract
By the sixteenth century, the sultan governed his domains largely through the ‘Slaves of the Porte’. These were the men whom he had recruited to serve as ministers, provincial governors or troops, and whom he paid through the treasury or by the allocation of fiefs. It was a system of government that had taken two centuries to evolve.
Colin Imber

5. The Provinces

Abstract
Provinces, in the sense of territorial units with governors which the sultan had appointed, probably did not exist in the Ottoman Empire before the last two decades of the fourteenth century. It is, however, probable, that Osman (d. c.1324) and Orhan (c.1324–62) divided their territory into appanages for their sons, relatives and followers. The only reference to Osman’s division of territory appears in the Ottoman chronicles of the late fifteenth century, which remark that: ‘He gave the banner (sanjak) of Karahisar, known as Inönü, to his son, Orhan; and he gave its army command (sub-ashilik) to his brother’s son, Alp Gündüz.’1 This tale of how Osman shared out land and military command may not be true in detail, but perhaps reflects a reality. The practice of granting appanages and army commands to the ruler’s sons acquires a slightly sharper focus in Byzantine chronicles. John Kantakouzenos names Orhan’s brother, Pazarlu, as a commander at the battle of Pelekanon in 1328. It was Orhan’s eldest son, Süleyman, who led the Turks across the Dardanelles in 1352 to occupy the Byzantine fortress of Tzympe, and it was with Süleyman that Orhan instructed the Emperor to negotiate in his attempt to regain the fortress. It seems therefore that, until his death in 1357, Süleyman was governor and army commander in the newly acquired Ottoman territory in Thrace. The Greek chronicler Gregoras also notes that, in 1357, Orhan had given lands along the Gulf of Izmit to his son Halil. The later name for the district of Bursa, Hüdavendgar — meaning ‘ruler’ — suggests that this was the territory belonging to Orhan himself.
Colin Imber

7. Taxation

Abstract
The economy of the Ottoman Empire was overwhelmingly agricultural, and the bulk of its revenues came from taxes on agricultural land and on crops, livestock and other rural produce. Most of this income went to support timar-holders, who drew their income from taxes, which they collected directly from the villages within the boundaries of their fiefs. The land-and-tax registers with their accompanying law-books specified the taxes to which they were entitled, the rates at which they could collect them and the season when they fell due.
Colin Imber

Some Conclusions

Abstract
The Ottoman Empire was a dynastic state, where the sultan, in appearance, enjoyed untrammelled power. He was both a political leader and military commander. Every office holder in the Empire occupied his position by virtue of a warrant which bound him personally to the service of the sultan, who could promote, dismiss or execute him at will. The sultan was apparently all-powerful, and it has been customary to compare Ottoman absolutism with the position of monarchs in Europe, where the prerogatives of the nobility restricted the power of kings.
Colin Imber
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