America and the Ottoman Empire Term Paper

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The Crusades

The Crusades would shape Islamic attitudes toward the West for centuries, so much so that it was noted that George Bush should never have used the term with reference to the War on Terror because of the bad feelings involved. In the eleventh century, much of the Moslem world was under siege from the Seljuk Turks. The Moslems were in control of the Holy Lands, the seat of Christianity, and in the eleventh century European Christians undertook the Crusades to recapture the Holy lands, notably the city of Jerusalem. The Crusaders saw their opportunity because of the dissension within the Moslem world itself. There were divisions within the Christian world as well, notably the splitting off of the Byzantine Empire as the Holy Roman Empire disintegrated. The Greeks were in power in the East, and the remnants of the Latin factions were in power in the west. The Church had divided into eastern and western factions, and to many in the West, Greek Constantinople was as suspect as the Moslem world (Finucane 7-9). The Byzantine Greeks played a role in the Crusades that reflected both the divisions within the Christian world and some of the elements that held that world together.

The division of the Roman Empire into two factions left the Byzantine half in the East dominated by Greek culture while the Church in the West was dominated by Roman culture. Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire and the seat of the Byzantine Church. The Byzantines were threatened by the Seljuk Turks beginning in the late eleventh century, and in the meantime they had taken over Jerusalem and related regions. Finucane notes that the Byzantines were anxious about the Moslem threat and aided Pope John X in defeating the Moslems in 915. Western Christians had also fought the Moslems for some time in Spain, France, and Italy. Throughout this time, the Church helped prepare the way for the Holy Wars that were to come.

As the era of the Crusades approached, the Byzantine Empire was in some turmoil and would come to its doom after more than 1,000 years of rule because of several factors. There were gradual alterations in the social structure that had bound all classes of society to the country, and these changes lessened those bonds. There were also external forces helping to bring about the downfall. The West was becoming more competitive in trade, and there were also more frequent clashes between the Western Church at Rome and the Eastern Church at Constantinople. In the long run, these things worked to the disadvantage of the Byzantines. The Moslem Turks proved to be the greatest threat, and it was the Turks who erased Constantinople as both an independent and a Christian power. This threat was not readily apparent in the middle of the eleventh century, however. The west was becoming more interested in Byzantium. The Italians made commercial inroads, while the Normans proved to be militarily aggressive. Relations between the two churches worsened as a consequence. There were theological differences between the two, but there were also political disputes. By the end of the eleventh century, the Moslem threat was clear, and the defeat of the Byzantines by the Turks at Manzikert would prove to be a turning point. It was from this victory that the Turks went on to capture the Holy Land from the Arabs, and in the West the idea of a crusade to liberate the Holy Land began to grow. The Roman papacy now looked upon the land of Byzantium as something to be "saved" (Sherrard 161-164).

Moslems generally treated Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land well, but the capture of Jerusalem by the Turks restricted access. In 1095, Pope Urban II called on Latin Christians to direct their arms against Islam and to free the Holy Sepulcher, as a means of attaining complete atonement. His call was met enthusiastically, particularly in France. Many sought to attain a remission of their sins, but serfs also hoped to escape from bondage, adventurers wanted to make fortunes, and malefactors wanted to evade punishment (Franzius 304).

Development of the Empire

The Ottoman Empire passed through two incarnations. The Ottomans first ruled one of a number of Turkoman principalities, and the first Ottoman Empire occurred as the Ottoman expanded into Southeastern Europe because of the collapse of Byzantine resistance. This expansion was easier than going up against the more powerful Muslim and Turkish neighbors. The Ottomans were successful because of this lack of resistance and because they were able to attract as warriors thousands of nomads fleeing the Mongols. The Ottomans were successful as well because they were fighting a religious cause against the infidels of Europe. The first Ottoman Empire had both economic and religious motives. The First Ottoman Empire would show both the strengths and the weaknesses that would affect the later Ottoman Empire. The religious component and the ability to take advantage of the weakness of other regions helped propel the Empire to success, but the attempt to continue the expansion and to maintain its status as conqueror led to the downfall of the first Empire:

The Ottomans extended their reach across southern and central Europe once more and annexed not only the European territory but also the lands of the Islamic caliphates in the Middle East and through much of North Africa. The Empire reached its peak in terms of territory in the sixteenth century. In the long run, the Ottomans declined because of their very success. They had succeeded in conquering a huge amount of territory, but they always had to continue to develop militarily if they were to maintain their territory. Much of the decentralization and decline that took place in the Empire derived from within the Ottoman Empire itself, but there were also external influences at work. The nation-states of Europe were gaining power, and their political, economic, military, and cultural advances made them far stronger. The Empire had to regain what it had lost and also to advance if it was not to be left behind. The process of decay was gradual and infiltrated the body politic over centuries. Ottoman decline was not visible to Europe until the seventeenth century. The sultans in the meantime had gained a sense of false confidence, and therefore when they realized the need for reform, it was already too late. The decline was hastened by political, military, social, and economic factors. Economic disruptions were brought about as the economic system of self-sufficiency weakened and inflation increased. Efforts were made to control many of these factors, but as noted, reform efforts were too late (Mansfield 27-28).

North America

The settlement of North America covered thousands of miles of coastline and islands. The different regions were settled by different groups, often with different religious backgrounds, such as the Puritans of New England or the Catholics in Maryland. Different European groups were also involved, with many being British, with the Dutch settled on the Hudson in New York, with the French to the North and the Spanish to the South. In the first few decades after settlement, the North-South divide began to develop with the line between Massachusetts and Carolina:

The New England North has an all-class, mobile, and fluctuating society, with an irresistible upward movement pushed by an ethic of hard work. It is religious, idealistic, and frugal to the core. In the South there is, by contrast, a gentry-leisure class, with hereditary longings, sitting on the backs of indentured white laborers and a multitude of black slaves, with religion as a function of gentility and class, rather than an overpowering inward compulsion to live the godly life. (Johnson 64)

The emerging country was not simply divided into two parts, however, but into many parts as different groups were developing, and while the country was still overwhelmingly English, a multiethnic picture was also developing. In the central section in particular, different groups had staked out their claims to different regions. The Dutch expanded into Pennsylvania, along with the Quakers under William Penn. The influx of Quakers made Pennsylvania a wealthy region because so many were people of property from Bristol and London (Johnson 65). Puritan rule remained strong in New England, and while this region seemed to be developing a form of theocracy, in truth the people expressed themselves in democratic terms and countered any attempt at stifling individualism (Johnson 67-68).

While many of these groups came to Northern America to escape religious persecution in Europe and to achieve religious freedom in America, they often tended to see religious freedom more in terms of their own freedom than the freedom of others.

One of the more contentious issues embodied in the Constitution is the separation of church and state. The Founding Fathers included the provision in the Constitution, placing it as part of the First Amendment and covering the issue in a few words, along with…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Andryszewski, Tricia. School Prayer: A History of the Debate. Springfield, New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, 1997.

Arkoun, Mohammed. Rethinking Islam. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1994.

Berger, Peter L., Firuz Kazemzadeh, and Michael Bourdeaux. "The State of Religious Freedom." World Affairs, Volume 147, Issue 4 (1985), 238-253.

Boston, Robert. Why the Religious Right Is Wrong about Separation of Church and State. Amherts, New York: Prometheus Books, 1993.

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