More notes from “The emergence of the modern Middle East”
We have already seen that the relationship between the ME and Eu along the centuries has been crucial. But if the ME was superior to Western Europe until the last quarter of the 18th Century, what happened then that changed the balance?
The short answer is probably that Europe was lucky and had a lot of genius brains that brought about better medicine and healthcare (= longer lives), industry (= increased wealth) and cool boats (= Risiko… ok kidding, expansion) all of a sudden.
At the same time the ME was kind of unlucky because it critically lost Crimea -this place here– in the 1783 Russian-Ottoman war and that was the first serious loss of control of Muslim subjects they had experienced, a great historical reversal.
Colonization by UK and FR, as we know, put the cherry on top of the cake. And when Selim III modernized the Ottoman army with Western-style reforms and had the military learn English, French and German (those scary quadrilingual soldiers!!), it got sooo much easier for them to get influenced by foreign ideas and provoke a cultural shock. Muslims realized they weren’t on top of the world (or the cake) nor self-sufficient anymore and those same military people would soon become the gems of the revolution of tomorrow!
So then came Napoleon, in 1798 if you remember. The French stayed in the ME for three years and of course that also meant extreme exposure of the locals to European greatness, scientific advancement and progress (admittedly, we were fairly cool back then!). That went on all 19th Century long, as Europe became increasingly more populated, London earned gold medal for largest city ever, European exports went up 800% (!!!) and so on. Europeans also imported silk from Lebanon, cotton from Egypt, and olive oil from Tunisia, so the relationship kept strong.
And as if that weren’t enough to put pressure on the Ottoman empire, guess what? The Russians supported the nationalist aspirations of Orthodox communities within the ME, France did the same with Catholics, Britain (later) with zionists. All with the aim to see the empire IN RUINS!
History is so dramatic.