Ottoman Empire through the British Eye
The article Ottoman politics through British eyes: Paul Rycauts’s “The Present State of the Ottoman Empire, is an article by Linda T. Darling from the University of Arizona. Paul Rycault travel book is used by many historians. Paul Rycault was a British diplomat, author and a traveller and he served as a secretary to the British embassy at Constantinople, after that he served as counsel to the levant company in turkey. Rycaut distorted the image of the Ottoman Empire to criticise his own society, restoration England. Linda darling wrote of the politics of ottoman kingdom and how the Britons viewed them.
In the article,Linda remarks that Paulrycauts book fits within a tradition of reporting on the Ottoman Empire for defence purposes. Many people like Rycaut who reported on the Ottoman Empire in the 17th and 18th centuries showed a sense of aversion towards the Islamic empires policies and religious practices(Darling, pg. 72).Linda says that the book by Paul does not give the straight forward description of the OttomanEmpire and its people. Rycautin the book says that his description of the OttomanEmpirewas not for educational purposes,buthe wrote them as a matter worthy of consideration by kings and governors. Linda says that the book by Paul talks about many negative things about ottoman.
Linda is so sure in her article says that Paul wrote negative things about ottoman empire and its people and distorted its image completely. But we are not very sure if the things that were written by Paul are all negative like Linda says,or there are some of the negative things that are true about the OttomanEmpire. People should not assume that all negative things written about something are all not true because they may be true.
According to Linda, she says that the British view of the ottoman was that of prejudice against the Islam religion, fear of an enemy who seemed powerful and ignorance. During the 16thcentury, there was a permanent establishment between ottoman and England and the Britons who visited ottoman began writing about ottoman to their people in England. Their writings at first were about commercial and military imports,but this later changed to wanting information about the Ottoman government and inside things about their politics. People like PaulRycaut are the ones who started writing to their homelands about the Ottoman people and their politics.
From the article, we see that Linda thinks it is surprising that PaulRycautwrites such negative things about the empire of ottoman. Pauls view of the political life of ottoman reflects the aspects of his own national history. Linda says that pauls are reporting of the OttomanEmpirefor defence purposes and that Paul was concerned with the question of how difficult it would be to defeat the Ottoman company. According to Linda, the book by Paulconcentrates more on politics and religion and not on the other things that were going on in the empire. Other scholars and explorers had written a lot about the Ottomanempire, butPaul dismissed such writings saying they were not true accounts and that his own sources for his book are more reliable than any other. Rycaut says that he had information from the Ottoman official registers and records which he says are authentic and give accurate information unlike others(Darling, pg. 76).But Linda in the article says that one wonders how Rycautcan read and be able to interpret the information from such registers and records because they were handwritten in the Ottoman language which he did not know or understand at all.
The article disagrees with the notion of Rycaut that the OttomanEmpire declined,but the article says that it did not decline,but it went through a series of changes. The article by Linda talks about the views of Rycaut on England restoration as something that was not a simple victory for the absolutemonarchy but a compromise between royalism and parliamentarism(Darling, pg. 79).The article talks about the Ottoman political culture not to be known by many people during the 17th century. Ottoman power and high status in the world between the period of a late13th century and early 15th century is attributed to strong and able sultans who ruled the people well. During the 15thcentury, it started to fall after the death of Suleyman,and the sultans who followed were not strong enough to maintain the high Ottoman status. According to the article, it says that during the 17th century the empire went through a series of changes and that the notion of decline is not comprehended by other scholars and historians.
According to the article, Rycaut wrote his book during the period when the OttomanEmpirewas trying to recover from the turmoil it had undergone(Darling, pg. 80). So during this time, the politics of the OttomanEmpire were not going well. Government officials and other people were laid off from work at arapid rate, the military was not functioning well at that time,and many other things were not running smoothly as expected. During this time also the treasury was bare, and inflation was rampant. The sultan who was ruling at that time, was not keen on things to do with politics and therefore his government began to decline,and the mother was the one who helped him rule the empire. So Rycaut wrote the many negative things about the empire,and at the end, he added his own views which had no positive view about ottomans politics.
From this accounts of the OttomanEmpire during the period of turmoil and that Rycaut wrote his book during this period, people can now be able to understand why he wrote negative things about the kingdom. Rycaut defined theottoman kingdom as tyranny and that the ruler acted as the one above everyone and anything else in the empire and was above the law and could do anything that he wanted to do with no restriction(Darling, pg. 83).This views painted a negative image of the Ottoman Empire and its people to other people all over the world. Thisis not the reality because this challenges that the ottoman faced was temporary and was not something that lasted for long. The challenges of the leadership ended,and ottoman was okay political again and started to rise to the level that it was before.
Linda, the author of the article, does not agree with Rycaut that the sultan had all the powers and that he did whatever he wanted and that he was above the law in the OttomanEmpire. Linda says otherwise that the sultan was bound by the Islamic laws that covered social politics and religious questions and no one was allowed to change the rules even if the person was a king or a ruler of the land. So the sultan was not free to do whatever he wished to do because he was guided by the laws of Islam religion (Darling, pg. 86). The article also shows another area where PaulRycaut contradicts himself when he says that the wealth of the empire belonged only to the master and was used to satisfy the master. But right after saying this he explains the ottoman of distributing rights on the land of the empire to the military people as a reward for things that they have done that are good and warrant rewards. This two contradicting statements by Rycaut shows that he does not tell the truth and that he is not sure about what he says about the OttomanEmpire.
In conclusion, the article talks about what PaulRycaut says about the OttomanEmpire and its politics and the way the other Britons viewed the empire. Rycaut paints a negative image to the people about the empire. He says that the empire was a tyranny and that the king had powers and above the law so was able to do whatever that he wanted to do. However,Linda in the article disagrees with such ideas,and she says that Rycaut is not saying the truth and that he contradicts himself in some parts of his texts. Linda in the article argues that sultans and the other leaders of the Ottoman empire were guided by the Islamic laws and that they were not allowed to break any of the laws.