The introduction of the book engages in a discussion on the growing historiography of the global age of revolutions and recent debates about the transformation of the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It argues that the global context helps us to understand the transformation of the Ottoman Empire in a more comparative and connected fashion and at the same time the Ottoman experience helps us to see the global context in a more synchronic and less linear way.
This chapter offers a brief sketch of the Ottoman world in the eighteenth century and examines the New Order, a set of reform agendas proposed by the Ottoman imperial elite to bring military and fiscal crisis to an end. Some of these reform agendas threatened segments of society, particularly those who endorsed the political claims of the Janissaries. It argues that neither the New Order nor the opposition were monolithic groups, but large coalitions with branches in the provinces, diverse positions, and various interests.
This chapter discusses the nature of the relationship between the provincial elite and the empire in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth centuries. It argues that throughout the eighteenth century provincial notables came to act as fiscal, administrative, and military entrepreneurs who engaged in formal or informal contractual relations with the empire. These contractual relations were based on offers, acceptances, rejections, and counteroffers in a volatile arena, without the formal security of contract, status, property, and life. The process gradually produced a new order of notables: the empire was run by partnerships between central and provincial elites. Some provincial notables joined the coalition of the New Order, while others acted with the opposition
Chapter Three analyzes the ways in which provincial communities responded to changes in the eighteenth century. It argues that while the central administration was disconnected from the provinces and outsourced authority to provincial notables, provincial communities developed bottom-up mechanisms to manage fiscal and administrative matters under the supervision of elected or communally nominated notables. Instead of reversing this participatory and electoral process and launching a centralizing policy, the central administration institutionalized bottom-up collective actions. In the new provincial order, collective action became a source of legitimacy. Provincial communities were becoming political actors—sometimes with and sometimes at expense of notables—in governance.
This chapter shifts to a narrative history of the events that took place between August 1806 and November 1808. Stories from previous chapters converge in Chapter Four, highlighting popular opposition to the New Order led by the Janissaries, shifting coalitions between provincial and imperial elites, growing politicization of the communities, and the trans-imperial story of the Napoleonic wars and wartime diplomacy. A series of contingencies, shifting alliances, and dead-ends led to the eventual collapse of The New Order due to a Janissary led popular revolt in 1807, after which government was restored.
This chapter presents a textual analysis of the Deed of Alliance. Close reading of the text, combined with commentary, is followed by a discussion of the document's reception in modern history and its place among other constitutional texts from the Age of Revolutions. A political coalition formed between the elites of the New Order and a group of provincial notables for a coup d'état to restore the New Order. This coalition manifested itself in the Deed of Alliance, which envisioned a new imperial order based on partnership, security, stability (instead of volatility), and trust among elites. The Deed was a constitutional synthesis of the New Order and order of notables.
The conclusion provides a perspective on the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century transformation of the Ottoman order. It argues that the structural developments that appeared in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, namely fiscal-military and administrative reform, the development of negotiational relations between the central government and the provincial notables, and the increasing participation of the communities in governance shaped the transformation in modern times until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the formation of modern nation-states in the Balkans and the Middle East.