Western scholars, in the development of hypotheses on the emergence of the great powers, have emphasised the importance of economic factors, claiming that there is a parallel between political power and economic potential.
Yet when the Ottoman Empire, founded at the beginning of the 14th century along the eastern Byzantine frontier, is assessed on the basis of this assertion, it is clear that economic powers alone are not sufficient to provide an explanation of how the Ottoman state emerged as a great world empire over such a short period of time.
It is our opinion that one of the main factors leading to the rise of the Ottoman Beylik is that it acted on the principle of the gaza in a geographical area that was suited to waging war against the infidels in both the east and west. It is also believed that the political conditions in Turkistan and the Middle East at the beginning of the 18th century was another important factor that acted towards the rise of the Ottomans. In this period, the Mogul danger, economic problems and the anxiety to find a territory in which to settle caused the Turkish tribes to migrate west. The Ottoman Beylik was the beneficiary of these conditions. Therefore, the Ottoman's gaza that was directed towards Byzantine and the Balkans helped to ensure enormous territorial gains in a relatively brief period of time. An undoubted impetus in this process was the political conditions in the Byzantine Empire and the struggle for the throne in the Byzantine capital. The experienced cadres in the Ottoman bureaucracy, who had immigrated from the East, also created another opportunity for the rapid institutionalisation of the Ottoman Empire.
The success of the Ottoman dynasty in turning these political and social conditions into a conquest and settlement policy are among the factors that led to the rise of the Ottoman Empire. Political developments in Europe, "istimalat" and the settlement policies adopted by the Ottomans as a state policy, enabled the Ottomans to establish itself permanently; particularly in the Balkans.
These factors enabled the Ottomans to become not only a world power, but also a super power, within two centuries; however, after the 16th century these dynamics were insufficient in the face of the remarkable economic and political developments in Europe at this time.
The l7rh century in Ottoman history embodies the Ottomans inefficient attempts against the rise of Europe, whereas in the 18th century, the Ottomans accepted the superiority of Europe and struggled to recover, accepting Europe as their model.
In the 19th century the Ottoman Empire became a focus for the international politics of the other super powers. This was a period in which the European powers always formulated their foreign policies based on developments in the Ottoman Empire. Thus, at first, the Ottoman Empire became an object in the power politics of the European states, later becoming the "sick man of Europe", for which there was no positive attitude either towards or against its disintegration; due to the partition problem. The Crimean War in 1854 is an interesting development that stemmed from this policy and was also the beginning of a new period for the Ottoman Empire, This period; which started with the Conference of Paris in 1856, illustrates both the attempts of the Ottomans to put the reforms, dictated by Europe, into effect, along with the Ottomans desire for political and economic integration with the West. The changing political conditions in Europe, as a result of Italian and German unification, reflects the period in which the Ottomans found themselves in a state of disintegration; due to ethnic and nationalistic movements. Abdulhamit II, who was defined as a "diplomatic genius" by Bismarck, was said to have prevented the acceleration of this process. Abdulhamit's dethronement; as a result of the Incident of 31 March; is a symbol of the period in which the end of the Empire approached, as a result of the adventurous foreign policies of the Progress and Union Committee. The decision of allying with Germany in World War I was the beginning of the end.
In the classification of this volume, the editors have aimed at reflecting the periods dominated by the Ottomans and the economic-financial transformations of the Empire. Contrary to the views of historians who investigate historical developments from the rise and fall of the Empire, in a traditional framework, our aim is to ernphasise the peculiarities of the Empire with regards to the events that were taking place in Europe and the Islamic World, thus indicating the characteristics of the Ottomans in the process of world history.
We hope that this volume will facilitate fresh research into Ottoman political history and be of help in understanding the motives behind the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire during its 600 years of domination.