Ch1-OttomanEra2010 - 1 Ottoman Mesopotamia, 1903-1920...

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Unformatted text preview: 1 Ottoman Mesopotamia, 1903-1920 Introduction In the early-twentieth century, Iraq was not an independent state. Instead, the area of present-day Iraq consisted of three provinces of the Ottoman Empire, and this imperial polity had ruled over them for nearly four hundred years. The Ottoman Empire consisted of more than 20 million people in twenty-nine provinces that spread over three continents. The three provinces in Mesopotamia, the premodern designation for the area of present-day Iraq, each centered on a principal city: Basra in the coastal south, Baghdad in the central plains, and Mosul in the mountainous north. The Ottomans, a Sultanistic dynasty legitimizing its rule through Islamic beliefs, implemented a system of decentralized rule, meaning that the Sultan appointed governors, or valis , to act in his stead in provincial capitals. Despite this system of decentralized rule, or, more accurately, because of it, the Ottomans took pains to ensure that their provinces stayed within their political control. And yet, centripetal forces were at work in these three provinces. In the early-twentieth century, Mesopotamia consisted of 2.2 million diverse people. Of this population, 60 percent lived in rural areas (of them 17% were nomadic) and 40 percent lived in cities (Marr, 7). Of these, more than half were Shii and about 20 percent were Kurdish, with another 8 percent composed of Jewish, Christian, Yazidi, Sabaean and Turkmen minorities (Tripp, 31). These people had little sense of having an Ottoman identity, and some of them began to attempt to exercise provincial autonomy and even independence from the central Ottoman administration in Istanbul. This was as true of the agas who led tribes in the rural areas as it was of the effendis, or urban educated elite in the major cities. Complicating matters, European powers, which had already colonized the Ottoman provinces of Algiers and Cairo, also exercised a substantial indirect influence within the Mesopotamian territory. They did so by developing commercial relations with the people there. The British East India Company, for example, had established contacts in Mesopotamia in the late-eighteenth century, leading Great Britain to establish a consulate in Baghdad in 1802. The Great Powers, like France, as will be seen below, also exercised influence through cultural institutions, such as schools set up for boys and girls. Germany even invited Mesopotamian soldiers to its country in order to complete their military training. Some present-day readers might conceptualize the area of present-day Iraq as stultified and backwards at the turn-of-the- twentieth-century, but this chapter provides evidence that this 2 region was a dynamic place connected to the outside world. This chapter begins with a description of encroaching Western influences in Baghdad. It continues with a description of Mosul by Lt.-Col. Mark Sykes, a diplomat who would later sign an agreement with France that ensured that Mesopotamia was within...
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This note was uploaded on 02/17/2011 for the course HIST 246 taught by Professor Holden during the Spring '11 term at Purdue University-West Lafayette.

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Ch1-OttomanEra2010 - 1 Ottoman Mesopotamia, 1903-1920...

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