The Decline of the Ottoman Empire:
This article may be almost ten years old, nevertheless it does well to illustrate the perpetual tension that has existed within the Islamic world since it found itself confronted with the West and the attendant forces of secularization and modernization. To Westernize, or not to Westernize: this has often been the dilemma within Islamic societies.
The Ottoman Empire went from being a powerful and comprehensive empire, shown here at its height in the 17th Century:
Napoloeon’s decimation of the Mamluks in Egypt early in the 1800s sent shockwaves through the Islamic world. As the century progressed and further external pressures were felt–namely mounting Russian aggression (ie. dispute over control of the Black Sea) and increasing European strength (ie. industrial might)– the Ottomans increasingly realized they had to modernize. The enacting of the Tanzimat Reforms in 1839 was a comprehensive move to try to reform the empire and “catch up.” Read about them HERE.
By the end of WWI, the Ottoman Empire had been reduced to what is now modern day Turkey; a pale shadow of its former glories. The slow erosion of the Ottomans is shown in this map:
The Decline of the Qing Dynasty:
“The Opium War, also called the Anglo-Chinese War, was the most humiliating defeat China ever suffered. In European history, it is perhaps the most sordid, base, and vicious event in European history, possibly, just possibly, overshadowed by the excesses of the Third Reich in the twentieth century.
By the 1830’s, the English had become the major drug-trafficking criminal organization in the world; very few drug cartels of the twentieth century can even touch the England of the early nineteenth century in sheer size of criminality. Growing opium in India, the East India Company shipped tons of opium into Canton which it traded for Chinese manufactured goods and for tea. This trade had produced, quite literally, a country filled with drug addicts, as opium parlors proliferated all throughout China in the early part of the nineteenth century. This trafficing, it should be stressed, was a criminal activity after 1836, but the British traders generously bribed Canton officials in order to keep the opium traffic flowing. The effects on Chinese society were devestating. In fact, there are few periods in Chinese history that approach the early nineteenth century in terms of pure human misery and tragedy. In an effort to stem the tragedy, the imperial government made opium illegal in 1836 and began to aggressively close down the opium dens.”
Click HERE to finish reading about the Qing Dynasty, the British, and the Opium Wars of the 19th Century.
CNN Millennium 1800s: China & The Opium Wars:
Not Just Outside Pressures, but Inside Ones Too: The Taiping Rebellion:
“While the Chinese entered into conflict with Europe and European culture during the Opium War and after, it was also convulsed by a number of rebellions in mid-century. With rebellion in Nien (1853-1868), several Muslim rebellions in the southwest (1855-1873) and northwest (1862-1877), and, especially, the Taiping rebellion, the consequences for China during this period were devestating. In the Taiping rebellion alone, which lasted for twenty years, almost twenty to thirty million died as a direct result of the conflict. In fact, the period from 1850 to 1873 saw, as a result of rebellion, drought, and famine, the population of China drop by over sixty million people. Along with humiliating defeats at the hands of European powers, the mid-nineteenth century in China was truly tragic.
The Taiping rebellion, though, is, as an internal disturbance, and odd compliment to the conflicts with the west. It combined both European and Chinese cultural patterns in a unique and volatile mix. The person in which this strange mix fermented was Hung Hsiu-ch’üan (1813-1864), the leader of the rebellion.” Click HERE for the rest of the article.
The fall-out from the Opium Wars and other internal problems such as the Taiping Rebellion severely damaged China’s overall power and well-being. One can see just how economically disastrous this century was by looking at the following graph: