Mehmet Ali Introduces Modernization and Reforms

In the years following the departure of French forces from Egypt in 1801, an extremely capable and ruthless leader rose to power in Cairo in the first decade of the nineteenth century. Kavali Mehmet Ali Pasha (the Ottoman version of the name; also known as Muhammad Ali in Arabic form) is widely considered to be the father of modern Egypt, as he was instrumental in reforming the Ottoman-Mamluk system and laying the foundations for a modernization process in the industry and the military. Mehmet Ali (modern Turkish) sought to reform both the economy and the Egyptian military, including the navy, by crafting it along the lines of the European model. Economically, he seized control of all aspects of the nation’s economic life by monopolizing key sectors and demanding structural reforms. He also created new educational institutions in an attempt at transitioning Egyptian society from the medieval world of the Mamluks to the modern age. Militarily, he brought in French advisors and sent students to Europe to learn French in order to translate European military manuals into Arabic.

Mehmet was an ethnic Turk born into an Albanian merchant family on March 4, 1869, in the town of Kavala in Thrace (present-day Greece) and was eventually provided a position by his district military commander uncle with the rank of Bolukbasi (tax collector) in the Ottoman Eyalet of Rumelia. There he learned the nuances and craft of taxation, public administration, and leadership. Later, during Mehmet’s rise to power in Egypt, he positioned himself as a champion of the people striving to overcome the cronyism and corruption of the Ottoman-Mamluk centuries-old system. This tactic effectively forestalled any sizable, popular opposition until he was able to consolidate his power within Egypt. In addition to a deft and capable hand at public administration, he gained valuable experience in military affairs, serving as an officer in the Ottoman military and eventually commanding an army in an unsuccessful bid at driving Napoleon from Egypt in 1799.

After being recognized as Wali (governor) of Egypt by Constantinople in 1805 and backed by the French, Mehmet systematically dismantled what remained of Mamluk power within Egypt, including the confiscation of feudal farms of the Mamluk emirs, while simultaneously stripping Cairo’s religious institutions of some 600,000 acres of prime real estate holdings. Appearing to offer a gracious compromise to the then-reeling Mamluks, Mehmet invited their leaders to a feast in 1811 celebrating his son Tosu Pasha’s appointment to lead the army being sent against the Saud-Wahhabi rebellion in Arabia. However, once his guests had arrived within the compound (Cairo Citadel), Mehmet ordered the gates locked and all Mamluks in attendance killed.

The Egyptian-Ottoman military in the opening years of the nineteenth century consisted of a wide range of ethnicities, including Circassian Mamluks, Albanians, Kurds, Greeks, and Egyptians. Only the Mamluks, Albanians, Kurds, and Greeks received training as military commanders, as Egyptian cadets were trained as noncombatants. By the 1830s, Egyptians were selectively trained for combat assignments but were not allowed to rise above the rank of major. In similar fashion, when the Turks descended into Persia in the eleventh century, while they kept the educated and trained Persian bureaucrats in their administrations, they continued to rely on Turkish cavalry for military duty. Mehmet used educated Egyptians and imported European experts to establish schools and hospitals within Egypt, but he kept a wary eye on the Egyptian elite.

In the 1820s, Mehmet sent educational missions comprised of Egyptian students to Europe, resulting in the birth of the modern Arabic literary renaissance known as the al-Nahda. By 1835, Mehmet’s government had established the first indigenous printing press in the Arab world (the Bulaq Press), which disseminated the official newspaper of the Mehmet Ali government. Within the military, he instituted reforms that came to be known as Nizam-i Cedid (new system) and Nizam al-jadid (new organization), essentially being instituted and organized with assistance from French and Italian officers recruited from Europe. The new system included men, equipment, and doctrine trained in the early modern European profession of arms. These reforms included remaking the Mamluk arms industry. Mehmet also built factories in Cairo that manufactured cannon and small arms. By 1830, the Egyptian arms industry was producing 1,600 muskets per month.

For the growing Egyptian navy, Mehmet purchased finished warships from Italy and France, and they began arriving in Egypt in 1826. A shipyard was also established at Alexandria and, by 1830, had produced nine ships-of-the-line (100 guns each). During the same time period, Mehmet created a 100,000-man army, which, coupled with his growing naval capability, placed a relatively modern military and navy under his command—a military and naval capability that soon eclipsed that of the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople. These developments were closely monitored in capitals throughout the Middle East and North Africa, eventually becoming a concern in both Europe and Russia. Britain’s reliance on sea power, in particular, for defense as well as empire made the advancing capabilities of Mehmet’s fleet, combined with significant French support, a growing concern in London.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century in Arabia, an Islamic fundamentalist group derisively called “Wahhabis” by their detractors, in conjunction with the House of Saud, began moving against Ottoman interests on the Arabian Peninsula and captured Mecca in 1802. The Wahhabis then captured the Hejaz region in 1803, which eventually led to the Ottoman-Saudi War (1811–1818). The timing for the Wahhabi move against the Hejaz was propitious as the Ottoman Empire’s main army was engaged in the Balkans in Europe putting down a series of rebellions. As Mehmet had finished dispensing with the Mamluk leadership at the Cairo Citadel, Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II (ruled 1808–1839) directed the Egyptian leader to deploy forces to Arabia to deal with the upstart Wahhabis.

Subsequently, in 1811, Mehmet dispatched a 20,000-man army, including a cavalry force of 2,000, under his 16-year-old son Tosu into the Arabian Peninsula where the Egyptian expeditionary force met heavy resistance at the Pass of Jedeia near al-Safra and was forced to withdraw to Yanbu. Shortly thereafter, Mehmet reinforced the expeditionary army under Tosu, and at the end of 1811, the force conducted siege operations against Saud and his allies in Medina. After a successful, if not prolonged, conclusion at Medina, the Egyptian-Ottoman army proceeded to capture Jedda and Mecca and retook the Hejaz region from the House of Saud.

These campaigns, however, did not neutralize Saudi military capabilities, as they continued raiding and harassing Ottoman and Egyptian forces from the Central Nejd region. An irritated Mehmet dispatched another son, Ibrahim, who led an army into Arabia in the fall of 1816 and conducted a two-year campaign against the Saudis. These activities captured the Saudi capital of Diriyah in 1818, including most of the Saudi elite and their leader Abdullah ibn Saud, who was subsequently transferred to Constantinople and summarily executed.

After securing the Hejaz, Mehmet turned his attention to Africa and in 1820 dispatched an army of 5,000 troops under the command of his third son, Ismail (this time sending along a trusted military advisor, Abidin Bey), into the Sudan. These forces met fierce resistance from the warriors of the Shaigiya tribe. However, armed with modern weapons and tactics, Mehmet’s army outgunned and outmaneuvered the Shaigiya and secured the Sudan, which served in expanding his ability to project power and influence into Ethiopia and Uganda. From this outpost, Mehmet’s forces captured and made slaves of the inhabitants of the Nuba Mountains and western and southern Sudan. The defeated Shaigiya, in order to hold on to their lands, acquiesced as vassals and served in Mehmet’s infantry regiment, the Gihadiya (in Arabic, Jihadiya). Mehmet and subsequent Ottoman-Egyptian rulers have been recorded in Sudanese history as being particularly brutal and repressive regimes, which eventually gave rise to the independence struggle in 1881 that featured the self-proclaimed Mahdi (Muhammad Ahmad).

While Mehmet was expanding his power and influence in Arabia and Africa, the Sultan in Constantinople, Mahmud II, was experiencing upheaval across the empire, particularly in his European provinces in the Balkans, Greece, and Macedonia. Ottoman losses during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774 meant that the empire had ceded to Russia’s vast lands in the Black Sea region and extending as far south as the Caucasus. In its European provinces, the empire was facing ethnic rebellion.

In Greece, the problem was particularly acute. Greek nationalists in the Roman principalities, in the Peloponnese, and in the Aegean Islands commenced insurgency operations during the Greek War of Independence (1821–1830), with the aim of liberating Greece from four centuries of Ottoman domination. From the perspective of the Ottoman Sultanate, Greece was a key province not only for its strategic position in the Balkans and the Mediterranean but also because much of the empire’s shipping was Greek-owned and operated. Moreover, many of the key areas of the Ottoman Empire—Cyprus, Crete, western Anatolia, Macedonia, Thrace, and the city of Constantinople—had Greek majorities.

Sultan Mahmud II believed that Greece, being a conquered land, had been generously treated under the empire. He found it unconscionable that its inhabitants would now rise up in insurrection. In order to communicate his displeasure, in April 1821, he ordered Ottoman Janissaries (elite units within the Ottoman army) to seize the spiritual leader of the Greek Christian Orthodox Church whom he suspected of colluding with the rebels. As the patriarch of Constantinople (Gregory V) was leaving Easter Mass in full regalia, he was arrested and hanged on the spot from the cathedral gates and left there for three days. Following the third day, his body was dragged through the streets of Constantinople and flung into the Bosporus Straits.

While Mahmud was experiencing the slow unraveling of empire, by 1823 Mehmet’s Nizam-i Cedid developed into a force of 24,000 officers and men, comprising six infantry regiments with five battalions of 800 men each—all armed with French muskets and trained in French infantry tactics. Mehmet deployed the first regiment on the Arabian Peninsula, the second in the Sudan, and the remaining four under the command of his son, Ibrahim in Morea in 1825 (southern Greece), following the urgent directive from Sultan Mahmud II to help quell the uprising in the empire’s Greek territories now raging into their second year.

The Sultan’s Ottoman army had been unable to suppress the Greek rebellion and Mehmet, whose Egypt was technically an Eyalet (province) of the empire but had achieved practical autonomy, realized there would be gains to be made by coming to Constantinople’s aid. Sultan Mahmud II offered Mehmet the island of Crete in compensation for halting the rebellion and, in further negotiations, the Sultan also promised to grant the heartland of the insurgents, the Peloponnese, as a hereditary fief to Mehmet’s son, Ibrahim. Mehmet would later argue that he was led to believe that, given Egyptian intervention against the Greeks, the position of Wali (governor) of Syria would also be made available to Mehmet or an appointee of Mehmet’s choosing.

Consequently, in 1825, after receiving assurances of substantial reward, Mehmet sent four regiments (16,000 troops) aboard 100 transports escorted by 63 warships to quell the Greek rebellion. To the great consternation of the European powers, his Western trained and equipped army and navy had now been sent against the Orthodox Christian Greeks. In February 1825, the Egyptian ground forces, under the campaign commander, Ibrahim (Mehmet’s son), overran the western region of the Peloponnese but were unable to secure the East where the Greek rebels were based at Nafplio. By this time the rebels were being led by a contingent of British and French officers, including Major Sir Richard Church, Colonel C. Fabvier, Admiral Lord Cochrane, and Captain F. A. Hastings.

Moving across the Isthmus of Corinth, Ibrahim’s forces transited to the Greek mainland and captured the strategic stronghold of Missolonghi in April 1826. Greek forces then conducted guerrilla operations against the combined Ottoman-Egyptian armies, and Ibrahim turned to drastic measures such as burning crops and food supplies of the population in order to destroy the support and sustenance being provided to the insurgency. Ibrahim also brought Arab settlers into Greece in the attempt to dilute ethnic Greek influence while deporting hundreds of Greeks into slavery and sending them to work camps in Egypt.

Aligned against about 5,000 Greek fighters (whose partisan motto became “freedom or death”) were the 16,000 Egyptian-Ottoman troops and 25,000 regular Ottoman army troops. In June 1827, the Acropolis of Athens, the last Greek fortress on the mainland, was overrun by Ottoman forces. Britain, France, and Russia, concerned about the military might being brought to bear on the Greeks and the scorched earth policy being conducted by Ibrahim, gathered in Britain and, in discussions which led to the Treaty of London in July 1827, sought to impose an armistice on the Ottoman Empire.

Battle of Navarino

The Naval Battle of Navarino (1827). Oil painting by Garneray.

The Great Age of Fighting had then passed its peak, and there would be only one more large sailing fleet battle, the one-sided slaughter of an Egyptian-Turkish squadron by a combined fleet composed of British, French, and Russian warships at Navarino Bay in 1827. The forces were not large: 11 allied battleships and 16 other ships faced seven Turkish battleships and 58 smaller ships.

The last great naval battle of the sailing ship era arose out of the Greek War of Independence, 1822-32. In an attempt to control the conflict Britain joined France and Russia, which had wider ambitions. When Sir Edward Codrington led the combined fleets into Navarino Bay on 20 October 1827 determined to forestall a Turkish attack on the Greek island of Hydra, battle was inevitable. The numerous but smaller ships of the Turco-Egyptian fleet were almost annihilated in a savage close-range battle by the superior firepower of the allied ships, especially Codrington’s flagship the new 84-gun Asia. While a new ministry in London considered Navarino ‘untoward’ and sacked Codrington, the French and Russians celebrated a rare victory.

After initial negotiations failed with the Ottoman Sultanate, Britain, France, and Russia prepared to enforce the provisions of the Treaty of London through military action. In the summer of 1827, a large Ottoman-Egyptian fleet was being assembled in Alexandria for operations in the Greek theater, and Allied commanders sent a warning to Mehmet and Mahmud not to send the flotilla. The Ottoman-Egyptian leaders ignored what they believed to be meddling by the Allies into Sultanate affairs. As the fleet left Alexandria for Greece on August 5, 1827, the Ottoman leadership was finally in a position to finish off the remaining partisan rebel fighters and in putting an end to what had become known as the Greek War of Independence.

On August 20, 1827, Vice Admiral Sir Edward Codrington, commander of the Allied combined naval task force, received instructions from the Admiralty informing him that he was to impose and enforce the provisions of the London Treaty on both sides and to interdict the flow of reinforcements and supplies from Anatolia and Egypt to Ottoman forces in Greece. The application of military force against the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet, the communication stressed, should be used only as a last resort. On August 29, the Sultanate formally rejected the Treaty of London’s provisions, aimed at granting Greece autonomy while keeping the province within the empire. From September 8 to 12, 1827, the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet from Alexandria joined other Ottoman warships in Navarino Bay (present-day Pylos), located on the west coast of the Peloponnese peninsula in the Ionian Sea.

The Ottoman warships within the bay, in addition to imperial ships, were a combined force with warships from Algeria and Tunis as well as the Egyptian naval vessels. Ibrahim, Mehmet’s son and in operational command of Egyptian-Ottoman forces, was contacted by Codrington and agreed to halt fighting until he received further instructions from his father who was involved in communications with the Western allies at his headquarters in Egypt. However, on October 1, the Greek rebels continued operations against Ottoman forces that had been ordered to temporarily stand down, leading Ibrahim to disregard his agreement with Codrington and in resuming attacks against the Greeks.

On October 13, Codrington was joined off Navarino Bay by French and Russian warships. While Codrington believed his combined fleet had the necessary firepower to destroy the Ottoman ships arrayed in Navarino Bay, his instructions were to impose the provisions of the treaty peaceably if possible. Therefore, he sailed his fleet into Navarino Bay in single column with the British in the lead, followed by the French, and then the Russians. Eleven Allied ships-of-the-line (average 70 guns each) and 9 frigates and 4 smaller warships, bringing to bear nearly 1,300 guns, all sailed boldly into the bay where 70 warships of the Ottoman Empire lay at anchor with more than 2,000 cannon at the ready. Adding to the Turkish firepower were the shore batteries, which were under Ottoman control.

The Ottoman fleet had taken a horseshoe or arc formation with three lines, and the ships-of-the-line anchored in the first wave. The Allied forces had superior firepower in that their cannon aboard the ships-of-the-line were 32-pound guns, as most of the cannon available to the Turks were 24-pounders. Additionally, while the Allies possessed 11 ships-of-the-line, the Ottomans had only 3 and, while the Turks had more than 70 ships, 58 were smaller vessels such as corvettes and brigs. Further still, the Allied crews, particularly the British and the French, had extensive combat experience during the Napoleonic Wars, while most of the Ottoman crews’ only experience was in fighting smaller vessels. As if the superior firepower and superior gunnery expertise were not enough to tilt the odds in the Allies’ favor, the Ottomans’ ability to fight the Battle of Navarino was severely constrained by an additional and unforeseen development.

The Egyptian fleet present at Navarino Bay had largely been constructed or purchased with supervision by European naval officers, mostly French. The fleet had also been trained by a team of French officers under the overall direction of Captain J. M. Letellier,and these men served aboard the Egyptian-Ottoman warships as “shadow officers.” On October 19, the day before the Battle of Navarino, French Rear Admiral De Rigny, serving with the combined Allied fleet, convinced the French officers to withdraw from the Egyptian fleet. They removed themselves to a smaller vessel in the bay and attempted to provide logistical advice to the Egyptians, but the damage to morale and effectiveness was significant. Most of the Ottoman sailors had been pressed into service (essentially forced conscription), and, as the French shadow officers withdrew from their crews, one can imagine the sadness some of the officers must have felt for these unfortunate and unwitting souls as powerful naval artillery prepared to open fire at them from point-blank range as well as the anxiety and fear that must have permeated the young Egyptian and Ottoman sailors.

At 2 p.m. on October 20, 1827, British Admiral Codrington aboard his flagship, HMS Asia, led his combined fleet into Navarino Bay. The Ottoman shore batteries guarding the entrance to the bay were ordered to hold their fire while Ibrahim Pasha sent a launch to Codrington’s approaching vessel. The message from Ibrahim to Codrington was simple: “You do not have my permission to enter the bay.” Codrington returned the Ottoman launch with his reply to Ibrahim: “I have come to give orders, not take them.” Codrington continued on and, as his ships began to drop anchor at essentially point-blank range from the Ottoman fleet, a boat that had been lowered from the Allied ship Dartmouth proceeded in the direction of an Ottoman fire ship (a fire ship was a relatively small vessel loaded with flammable and combustible material in barrels mounted in the bow for use against an enemy target). The Ottomans opened fire on the approaching boat with musketry, and the exchanges escalated throughout the bay. In his communication with the Admiralty the following day, Codrington stated:

I gave orders that no guns should be fired unless guns were first fired by the Turks; and those orders were strictly observed. The three English ships were accordingly permitted to pass the batteries and to moor, as they did with great rapidity, without any act of open hostility, although there was evident preparation for it in all the Turkish ships; but upon the Dartmouth sending a boat to one of the fire vessels, Lieutenant G.W.H. Fitzroy and several of her crew were shot with musketry. This produced a defensive fire of musketry from the Dartmouth and La Syrene, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral de Rigny; that succeeded by cannon- shot at the Rear-Admiral from one of the Egyptian ships, which, of course, brought on a return, and thus very shortly thereafter the battle became general.

Following two hours of battle, all Ottoman ships-of-the-line and most of the large Ottoman and Ottoman-allied frigates had been destroyed; after two more hours of fighting, the remaining Ottoman naval vessels had been sunk, scuttled, or set on fire. While no British, French, or Russian ships had been sunk, several ships had suffered significant damage; one Allied ship-of-the-line had 180 hull breaches (pierced by enemy cannon balls), while three Russian ships-of-the-line were essentially disabled, and three British ships, including Codrington’s flagship, HMS Asia, were required to sail for England to immediately undergo repairs. The Allied fleet suffered 181 killed and 487 wounded, while the Ottoman fleet incurred losses exceeding 4,000 killed or wounded.

Word of the outcome of the battle reverberated throughout the maritime-oriented community that was Greece. People, in village after village upon hearing the news, rushed to the village squares, as church bells rang out and huge bonfires were lit on the mountain tops of the Peloponnese and Mount Parnassus in Central Greece. Demoralized Ottoman garrisons in the occupied zones made little effort to curtail the celebrations. The Battle of Navarino marked that final naval engagement between sailing ships with unarmored hulls and brandishing muzzle-loading, smooth-bore cannon. It also marked the first use in naval history of a steam-powered warship, as the relatively small Greek ship, the Karteria of the fledgling revolutionary navy, propelled by steam-powered paddles (as well as sails) made its appearance during the battle.

After suffering the devastating loss of essentially his entire navy and forced to withdraw his now unsupportable infantry from Greece, Mehmet demanded extra compensation for his losses from the Sultan. Mehmet demanded of the Sultan the Ottoman Eyalet of Syria in exchange for the loss of his navy. In Arabic, the region surrounding Syria is referred to as Bilad al-Sham (the Levant), and for centuries those in Mesopotamia, Persia, Anatolia, and Egypt sought to control it, as it possessed abundant resources as well as featuring the world’s most ancient yet developed international trading communities centered on Damascus, Aleppo, and the Mediterranean coastal cities. Moreover, from Mehmet’s perspective, possession of Syria would also provide a buffer zone against Ottoman power as well as a buffer zone against any foreign power that eventually seized control of Constantinople and Anatolia. With Egyptian military capacity based in Syria, it would also provide Mehmet with a possible staging area for direct operations against the Ottomans, should at some future time Mehmet decide to march on Constantinople.

For those same reasons, the Sultan refused Mehmet’s demands. In response, Mehmet built a new navy, and on October 31, 1831, under Mehmet’s son, Ibrahim, Egypt invaded Syria in the opening phases of the First Turko-Egyptian War. Ibrahim’s forces quickly overran Syria except for the well-fortified port city of Acre, which required a six-month siege, before capitulating on May 27, 1832. However, the costs of the expedition required Mehmet to demand increases in fees and taxes from the Egyptian population, which created significant levels of domestic discontent with Mehmet’s leadership. In addition to the domestic front, Mehmet soon realized the discomfort of the major European powers with his actions against Constantinople. The slow dissolution of the empire was unfolding as the Europeans and Russians moved to control or liberate key pieces of empire property. However, both the Europeans and the Russians did not wish to see Mehmet enthroned as the new Ottoman Sultan with control in Egypt, the Levant, Anatolia, and the key port cities that dotted the Eastern Mediterranean coastline between Asia Minor (Turkey) and North Africa.

After the fall of the stubborn port city Acre, Ibrahim took the Egyptian army into Anatolia and defeated an Ottoman army led by Reshid Pasha at the Battle of Konya on December 21, 1832. Sultan Mahmud II realized that, should Mehmet wish it, the Egyptian army could now march largely uncontested on Constantinople. Moscow, sensing opportunity, offered Mahmud military assistance and concluded the Treaty of Hunkar Iskelesi (Unkiar Skelessi) with him on July 8, 1833, to formalize the Sultan’s acceptance. With the Russians seeking to continue their push south and in creating a greater Mediterranean presence by taking advantage of Ottoman weakness, the Treaty of Hunkar Iskelesi brought a sharp reaction from Britain and France. The treaty included a secret clause that opened the Dardanelles to Russia in time of war, while precluding its use by anyone else. Both nations negotiated the Convention of Kutahya between Mehmet and Mahmud II in May 1833, which stipulated that Mehmet would withdraw his forces from Anatolia and in return would receive Crete and the Hejaz (in Arabia) in compensation. Moreover, Ibrahim would be appointed Wali or governor of Syria in return for a yearly tribute payment to the Sultan.

Inhabitants of the Syrian Eyalet chaffed at their new Wali, uncomfortable with Egyptian policies at what they perceived to be excessive taxation, forced labor, a general disarmament of the population, and military conscription. A variety of incidents and uprisings began in 1834. On May 25, 1838, Mehmet informed the British and the French that he intended to declare independence from the Ottoman Empire and Mahmud II ordered his forces to advance into Syria. Ibrahim defeated them at the Battle of Nezib on June 24, 1839, and afterward, the Ottoman fleet defected to Mehmet. Mahmud II died almost immediately following the loss at Nezib and the defection of the Ottoman navy.

On July 15, 1840, Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia signed the Convention of London, which offered Mehmet hereditary rule in Egypt provided the North African country stayed in the Ottoman Empire and provided he withdrew from Syria and the coastal regions of Mt. Lebanon. Mehmet mistakenly believed that the French were prepared to side with Egypt and was consequently dismissive of British demands. Following this, British and Austrian naval forces blockaded the Nile Delta and shelled Beirut on September 11, 1840. On November 27, 1840, Mehmet agreed to the terms of the Convention of London and renounced claims over Crete, Syria, and the Hejaz. Also instituted in the 1841 agreement, to which France also reluctantly acquiesced, was the Anglo-Ottoman Commercial Convention of 1838, which abolished Mehmet’s monopolistic control over Egyptian domestic and foreign commerce. Further diminishing Mehmet’s power was a requirement in the agreement that compelled the reduction of the Egyptian army from more than 100,000 troops to no more than 18,000.

From 1820–1840, Ali enjoyed the continuous support of France. Following his defeats of 1840–41, Ali and his successors never recovered from the effects of the European intervention, although his grandson, Ismail (1863–79) came closest to emulating the dynasty founder. Ismail’s heavy borrowing at ruinous discounts and interest rates for his ambitious schemes of military, economic, and social modernization hastened his downfall. By the time of his dismissal in 1879, Britain and France were exercising a dual control over Egypt’s finances under the authority of a public debt commission. After mounting crises beginning with the Urabi coup d’etat in September 1881, Britain backed into the occupation of Egypt the following July, without precipitating war in Europe. For more than sixty years thereafter, Whitehall decided the fate of the Egyptian army.

From 1606 to 1826 the Ottoman Empire instituted efforts aimed at reforming its gunpowder weapons-brandishing medieval armed forces. In Persia, the problem was even more acute than that faced by Constantinople. The Shah during the time of the Qajar dynasty and continuing into the nineteenth century was forced to rely on militias that constantly required extensive negotiations as well as expensive promises all contributing to an extended mobilization process. For the Ottomans, Sultan Selim III attempted to reorganize the army (Nizam-i Cedid) in the late eighteenth century but met considerable resistance from a number of entrenched interests, most notably from the infantry units known collectively as the Janissaries. As a result of his attempts at modernization and reform, the Sultan was driven from power in 1807. His successor, Mahmud II, in November 1808, only months after becoming Sultan was faced with a revolt by the Janissaries rebelling yet again at plans toward modernizing the army. The Janissaries killed Mahmud’s “grand vizier” Mustafa Bayraktar Pasha who had been ordered to spearhead the reform efforts and to modernize the Ottoman army.

These events, coupled with the difficulties experienced by a long line of predecessors, led Mahmud II to proceed with caution in his reform efforts. Eventually, however, on June 15, 1826, during the Vaka-i Haryire or “good incident,” troops loyal to Mahmud II shelled the Janissary barracks in Constantinople, killing several thousand inside. The Janissary corps was subsequently dissolved and its provincial garrisons disbanded. The event is recorded and celebrated in Turkish history as the “auspicious event,” which overcame a key obstacle and provided the opportunity to create that which eventually became modern Turkey.

The Rise and Fall of Ottoman Power

In the Middle Ages, the Ottomans created an empire through aggressive territorial expansion, a fairly sophisticated and organized system of taxation, a formidable military capability, and the utilization of a religion-based ideology for control and obedience. Once the forays into Europe had been blocked at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and outside Vienna in 1683, and, as a result, further imperial expansion and conquest thwarted, the Ottomans relied financially on agricultural production and the control of trade routes between the East and the West. However, the arrival of long-distance sailing ships and the rise of European shipping altered the traditional leverage enjoyed by the Ottomans in cooperation with their Mediterranean sailing contractors, the Venetians.

Since the Ottoman Empire traditionally controlled the overland Silk Road and commercial trade routes between Europe and Asia, they were able to dictate the terms of trade to both. Accordingly, the rest of Europe (minus the Venetians) sought options in order to mitigate the effects of this monopoly, leading eventually to the age of exploration and ocean-going technology. With the European voyages around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, the Ottomans increasingly found themselves cut out of the lucrative spice trade from Asia to Europe and the Mediterranean world.

In addition to being limited in its trading influence in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean during the eighteenth century, the Ottoman Empire also steadily lost territory in Eastern Europe to Austria and Russia. The empire found itself engaged on a number of fronts between 1568 and 1876 during the Russo-Turkish wars. During those wars, 11 conflicts, draining resources without replenishing the Ottoman treasury, were fought against an expanding and powerful Russian Empire. The Russian victory during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774 secured vast stretches of land on the Black Sea north coast and brought territory as far south as the Caucasus under Russian control. The Russian army invaded the Balkans in 1806–1812, and by 1878, Russian troops came within 10 miles of Constantinople. For Western Europe, the prospect of a Russian-controlled former Ottoman Empire brought a concerted effort to limit Russia’s Mediterranean influence and its relentless drive south toward warm water ports and control in Europe and in the Middle East.

In his book, Guns, Sails, and Empires, Carlo Cipolla argues that the development of gunpowder weapons and long-distance sailing ships enabled the Europeans to expand at the expense of the Muslim world in the sixteenth century. This is an accurate, if not partial, portrayal of events. However, all too often the narrative developed characterizes Europe as pillaging and plundering its way through a peaceful, tolerant Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. The military history of the Middle East shows predatory behavior being engaged throughout the region, first by the nature of ancient kingdoms within the Middle East itself, taking control of the production of food and trade while financing sufficient military capability to enforce an elite preferred status quo. This was the case in ancient Mesopotamia and in Egypt. Asiatic nomadic cavalry descending into the region introduced a new mobility and maneuverability combined with the all too familiar savagery in keeping mass populations compliant in the fields, and focused on paying their taxes.

These new developments in mobility and maneuverability were not defeated by the West but rather by the introduction of gunpowder and gunpowder weapons that were first invented in China and spread across the Old Silk Road to the Middle East and Europe by the Mongols, eventually providing the Turkish tribes of the Ottomans the opportunity for bombarding the walls (and the inhabitants) of a trading city that stood unconquered for 1,000 years. It was not a Western plan or plot but the simple reality that the primary Ottoman motivation was to enrich themselves and their warriors as they proceeded in their campaign aimed initially at seizing all that was “Rum” (Roman world). Following the conquest of the last remnants of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire, the Ottomans immediately attacked into the Mediterranean where they defeated the seafaring and trading city-state of Venice in 1479, following a 15-year war.

The Ottoman Empire then turned east and attacked with gunpowder weapons in Persia followed by a pivot south, conducting operations against the Mamluks in Egypt. A series of wars then erupted against Vienna between 1540 and 1791 wherein the Ottoman Empire attempted to overrun European civilization. A Western fleet stopped further Ottoman advances into the Mediterranean at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, and European ground forces, for all intents and purposes, halted their invasion of Europe at the Siege of Vienna in 1683. From 1500 to 1700, the Ottomans were using similar artillery and small arms as the Europeans; however, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a significant gap widened between the Ottoman Empire and Europe. The problem stemmed partly from the same type of issues the Russians faced by blocking the advancement in science and learning that the Europeans and North Americans embraced from the Renaissance (fourteenth to sixteenth centuries) to the Enlightenment (eighteenth century).

The West had finally seen the major religious wars come to an end with the signing of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which not only strengthened scientific inquiry but also codified the central position and power of the nation-state. Free to conduct experimentation and in possession of resources in which to support research and development, the West moved into the Industrial Revolution, which witnessed England, in particular, making historic gains in both civilian and military technology.

Conversely, in the Middle East in general and in the Ottoman Empire in particular, the inability to expand territory and seize resources with which to provide succor to one’s warriors and with which other key elite in the establishment might avoid paying taxes was stalled by the obstinacy of the Europeans. The Ottoman Empire came into being by taking land and wealth via an overwhelmingly powerful military. “Conquer and tax” was a simple formula useful for centuries for most warlords in conjunction with their multiple purveyors of religious edicts, condemnations, and general authoritarian methods of behavioral control. Without the ability to expand territory and thus the tax base, which allowed the Sultan to provide warriors with lucrative timars from which they could enjoy revenue from a subservient people, the Sultan was faced with having to generate revenue from taxes on an expanding base of sales and marketing of goods and services, that is, international trade. The problem with this model of empire was, once again, the Europeans.

During the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, the Ottoman Empire was arguably the premier military force in the world. It had managed, by virtue of its occupation of the key and strategic position of the former Byzantine Empire, to create a monopoly on the movement of trade between India and China, on the one hand, and Europe and the Mediterranean, on the other hand. The problem for the Ottomans’ monopoly on trade arose when men began seeing the world as a globe rather than as a flat, immovable object. Thus, shedding the church’s condemnation of Galileo and others who were intent on freely investigating the natural world, the West was able to escape the shackles of tradition and began embracing the dynamics that came from creativity and innovation. The result was a scientific revolution, which led to advanced technology and military supremacy.

The Ottoman Empire rested on a triad of capabilities. First, it evolved from the benefits of territorial expansion and in taxing those newly minted citizens. Second, its fortunes rested on massive tracts of land generally dedicated to agricultural production. And third, it benefited enormously from the control of trade routes between the East and the West. In terms of the first leg of the triad, its ability to expand had been frustrated by the Europeans. In the second, its control over the trade routes had been neutralized by ocean-going vessels and technology, which traversed the southern tip of Africa and into Asian markets. As such, by the eighteenth century, its fortunes had come to rely on its agricultural products and raw materials as its main economic asset. Its ability to control the terms of trade had vanished. A fourth leg had disappeared in the eighteenth century—military supremacy.

By this time, the European trading countries—Britain, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Germany, and, to a certain extent, Russia—through aggressive mercantilist policies had developed capital reserves that developing countries would require in order to modernize their infrastructure and reform their financial institutions. The Europeans, in stark contrast to the period between the fifteenth and early seventeenth centuries when the Ottomans reigned supreme militarily and financially, controlled the terms of trade.

Unfortunately, the Europeans conducted campaigns of predatory financial and military behavior in the same harsh and blatantly exploitative manner as its predecessors in the Middle East and in Asia. The blame for dismal economic conditions in the modern Middle East rests not with the West, East, North, or South. The blame rests on predatory schemes by corrupt and often incompetent leaders within the Middle East, acting in conjunction with dominant internal factions. Additionally, international actors, including states and private sector entities have, in many instances, undermined rational policies of growth and development by aligning with the corrupt and incompetent within the region.

In order to modernize in the early modern era, Mehmet Ali in Egypt and the Sultan in Constantinople needed foreign exchange (hard currency), and since the Europeans were now in a superior trading position, hard currency (and thus capital) was now in their hands. The Middle East had no other option other than a campaign aimed at economic, political, and educational reforms and a general modernization effort that would touch upon all aspects of society. However, since they lacked the capital, it had to come from loans from the rich European trading states. Those loans were granted, but they were granted by what could only be described as predatory mercantilists posing as international bankers. Accordingly, the Western bankers and their state supporters were prepared to make the loans for the modernized networks and systems that relatively advanced European technology could provide; but the Middle Eastern borrowers would have to provide exclusive concessions to the European lenders for what essentially amounted to effective control of those strategic assets, such as railways, communication links, and factories.

As a result, Ottoman banks, mining companies, railroads, docks and warehouses, forestry enterprises, gas and water works, and so forth were all not only built by the Europeans but also subsequently owned by them. The British obtained significant shares in the Ottoman Central Bank, which they helped finance and create. France took control of the concession to run key railroads in the Ottoman Empire. The French also obtained tobacco rights and control of the docks in Beirut. The British took control of mineral rights in the city of Mosul, one of the premier trading posts of the old overland trading system in what is now present-day Iraq. The Russians pressed for and secured the rights to custom duties in Constantinople and in the Black Sea ports. Germany took control of the docks at Haidar Pasha (1899) and Alexandrette (1905) along with railway shares (Berlin-to-Baghdad aspirations) and various municipal transport monopolies.

Even if the urge to develop the Ottoman economy had sharpened after 1840, that urge would have come too late. By then the Europe powers had, by concerted intervention, harnessed the Ottoman and Egyptian agricultural economies to the industrializing European economies, with the familiar pattern of the exchange of raw materials from the Middle East for industrial goods from Europe. As a result, in the Ottoman Empire even more than in Egypt the emergence of a domestic industry and of a Muslim middle class was checked. Instead, non-Muslim minorities and the enlarging European resident communities performed middle-class functions. The absence of economic reform in the Ottoman Empire thus closed the circuit of innovation. The rising secular educational system promoted primarily the interests of the new class of military officers, civil (imperial) servants, diplomats, and teachers who by 1870 formed a new urban educated elite. Their influence in domestic politics outlived the empire and indeed, Turkey’s First Republic.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the management of the state finances was largely being controlled by Europeans. The responsibility for these developments does not rest solely with the Europeans. In order to facilitate such a massive penetration of a state’s economic assets, the cooperation of key Ottoman elite was necessary and was made possible partly by a desire to enrich themselves as they signed away control. This is not to say all Ottoman elite operated in this manner, nor is it to say all Western political and financial elite sought to plunder the empire.

But the people living in the Ottoman Empire, unbeknownst to them, had their economic wealth carted off by what might be characterized as modern pillagers and plunderers arising both in the Middle East and in Europe. Prior to placing a blanket of blame on everyone in the West involved in nineteenth-century Ottoman and Egyptian economic affairs, it should be remembered that an enormous threat was posed to Western civilization by the rise of the Ottoman Empire and its vassals in Egypt. This was an enormously powerful and violent empire whose aim was to conquer and subjugate Europe and place the yoke of taxation upon its shoulders. This campaign was to be achieved not by negotiation, consent, or the virtuous example of exemplary leadership, but attained at the point of the sword, and later, by the general bombardment of a city’s walls. To contribute in dismantling that threat from a purely defensive motivation certainly animated the decision making and behavior of many statesmen and bankers in Europe at the time. European military commanders were required to defend their people. If the bankers could take down most of the Ottoman’s capability before a war had to be fought, so much the better.

The dynamics and the nexus between economic affairs and military operations have been ongoing for thousands of years, in Asia, in the Middle East, in Europe, and in the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, the process is not improved by burning down the town square, shooting the sheriff, or burning the bank. When the Egyptian people realized that the elite had essentially sold their country to the Europeans, they began, in a passionate and emotional fit, burning, looting, and killing. The process is improved by ordinary people becoming increasingly aware of the nefarious nature of many of these schemes and in shining the light of public awareness on the nature of those tactics, and then, holding those responsible to account. This requires reason over passion, wisdom over emotion, and education over ignorance. It required a new relationship between the rulers and the ruled. Napoleon and the French army, for all the havoc it wreaked during the Egyptian campaign, successfully served notice that the idea of a new relationship between ruler and ruled had arrived in the Middle East.

The Ottoman Capture of Otranto

Although Pierre d’Aubusson, Grand Master of Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St John, had been seriously wounded during the siege of Rhodes, immediately after it was over he set out to rebuild the ruined city of Rhodes and its defence walls and towers. Three days after the Ottoman withdrawal the Grand Master and the council met and decided to send an envoy to Italy to inform Pope Sixtus and King Ferrante of their victory over the Turks, and also to request further aid, ‘for it is of course assumed that the enemy proposes to come back’. By the beginning of October 1480 d’Aubusson decided that the Ottoman fleet had finally left the region and was not likely to return in the immediate future. The council therefore decided to allow the departure of the galleys and mercenaries that had been sent by King Ferrante. But they decided to retain the 100 men of arms who had come to Rhodes with the prior of Rome, because the knights had suffered such heavy casualties during the siege that their garrison needed reinforcements.

Mehmet’s expedition against the Ionian Islands in 1479 had given him possession of Santa Maura, Ithaka, Cephalonia and Zante, the former possessions of Leonardo III Tocco, who had taken refuge with King Ferrante of Naples. Corfu, the northernmost of the Ionian Islands, remained in the possession of Venice, which because of its peace treaty with the Ottomans remained neutral when Gedik Ahmet Pasha conquered the other islands in the archipelago.

On 2 July 1480 the Senate wrote to Vettore Soranzo, the Captain-General of the Sea, who at the time was on Corfu, informing him that the Ottoman fleet had left the Dardanelles and had divided into two parts, the larger one headed for Rhodes (where the siege had already begun on 23 May) and the other bound for the Adriatic.

As soon as Soranzo received the letter he left Corfu with twenty-eight galleys for Methoni, in the south-west Peloponessos, which together with nearby Methoni were called the ‘Eyes of the Republic’, for they surveyed all maritime traffic between the eastern Mediterranean and the Adriatic. Soranzo’s instructions were to avoid any conflict with the Ottoman forces, but if they attacked any Venetian possessions he was to oppose them. At Methoni, Soranzo met with an Ottoman envoy, who requested safe passage for a Turkish flotilla headed into the Adriatic, along with provisions. Soranzo agreed to the envoy’s requests, and he followed with his squadron as the Turkish ships headed towards the Adriatic to join Gedik Pasha’s fleet at Valona in Albania.

On 24 July 1480 Naples, Milan, Florence and Ferrara renewed their alliance for twenty-five years, an alignment designed to counter the pact between Venice and the papacy. Pope Sixtus IV immediately summoned envoys of the Italian states to Rome in order to gain their cooperation in sending help to Rhodes. The envoys expressed their concern that internecine war in Italy would make it difficult or impossible to help the Rhodians, and they asked the Pope to give them reassurance in this matter. Sixtus responded on 27 July with a circular letter to the states of Italy, making an impassioned appeal to keep the peace and take united action against the Turks before it was too late.

We think of nothing else than how the Italian states may with a unity of purpose resist the terrible power of the Turks… [Now] we have the enemy before our very eyes. He has already been sighted, poised to strike at the province of Apulia with a large fleet. If he should seize Ragusa or Rhodes (which God forbid!), nothing would be left of our safety… Hear our paternal voice, consider the common peril, and judge for yourself how great is the need to quicken our pace…

Meanwhile, Gedik Pasha’s fleet had left Valona on 26 July, headed across the Adriatic to southern Italy. The Venetian squadron under Soranzo remained at Corfu and made no move to interfere with the Ottoman fleet, which comprised forty large galleys, sixty smaller galleys and forty freighters, carrying some 18,000 troops and 700 horses for the cavalry.

The original plan was for the expedition to land near Brindisi, but, having learned from the sailors on a captured Italian freighter that the coast further to the south was undefended, Gedik Ahmet decided to head for Otranto. On the morning of 28 July he landed a squadron of cavalry without opposition near the castle of Roca, and the horsemen rode through the countryside as far as Otranto, on the heel of the Italian peninsula, capturing many of the locals and their cattle. The garrison at Otranto made a sortie and drove off the Turks, killing many of them and freeing some of the prisoners.

By that time Gedik Ahmet had landed the rest of his army, estimated to number 18,000. He then sent an Italian-speaking envoy into Otranto offering terms of surrender, and when these were rejected the pasha threatened the city with ‘fire, flame, ruin, annihilation and death’. Gedik Ahmet then positioned his siege guns and began bombarding the city, which was only lightly defended, its small garrison having no artillery to fire back at the Ottomans, while at the same time his cavalryman laid waste the surrounding countryside, putting all they encountered to the sword.

Word of the Ottoman attack quickly reached the court of King Ferrante at Naples, where it was feared that this was the beginning of a full-scale Turkish invasion of Italy. Niccolo Sadoleto, the Ferrarese ambassador to Naples, wrote on 1 August to inform Duke Ercole I d’Este of Ferrara.

This morning four horsemen have come [to Naples], riding at breakneck speed from Apulia and the region of Otranto. They have gone to find the lord king at Aversa, where he went yesterday evening, and they have brought him the news of how the Turks have landed at Otranto with 150 sail, and have made three assaults upon the castle. The news is all over Naples. I have no certain information, however, except that the lord king has in fact returned posthaste from Aversa within the hour.

Soon afterwards Sadoleto added in a postscript that the report of the Ottoman landing was true, and that ‘the number of ships is uncertain, but the armada is so great that it is believed to contain all the vessels that were at Rhodes!’. That same day Sadoleto wrote to Duke Ercole saying that he thought that King Ferrante would soon ask all his allies to help him to repel the invaders, who besides attacking Otranto had taken three villages in the vicinity. He reported that a horseman had arrived from Taranto ‘who says that there are more than 350 vessels, and that the Turks have attacked the castle of Otranto and ranged as far as Lecce, burning villages, taking prisoners and killing little children as though they were dogs…’.

Luca Landucci, a Florentine apothecary, viewed the Turkish attack on Neapolitan territory as a blessing to his native city. He noted in his diary that Duke Alfonso of Calabria, son of King Ferrante of Naples, had intended to do much evil against Florence but ‘by a great miracle it happened that on the sixth of August [sic], the Turkish army came to Otranto and began to besiege it; so it was necessary to leave our neighborhood, at the king’s command, and return to defend the kingdom…’.

On 2 August King Ferrante wrote to summon home Duke Alfonso, who was with his troops in Siena, which the Neapolitans had been trying to take. Ferrante then wrote to inform Pope Sixtus that the enmity between the various Italian states must be put aside because of the common danger posed by the Turkish invasion. Otherwise, he warned, he would throw in his lot with the sultan and work for the destruction of all the other states in Italy.

The Signoria of Venice had been making efforts to maintain peace with the Ottomans. On 3 June 1480 the Senate had instructed Zaccaria Barbaro, their new ambassador to Rome, to avoid Venetian involvement in the anti-Turkish alliance then under discussion among the Italian states. At the same time the Signoria was trying to avoid attempts by the Ottomans to involve Venice in an invasion of Italy. On 23 August 1479, during the Tuscan War, the conflict between the Kingdom of Naples and its allies against those of the papacy, Gedik Ahmet Pasha had sent an envoy to the Senate suggesting that the Venetians join him in an attack against King Ferrante and the Pope, both of whom he declared to be the worst enemies of Venice. The Senate politely declined the suggestion, remarking that ‘Venetian merchants had suffered no losses either in the papal states or in the Neapolitan kingdom’.

The defenders at Otranto were able to hold out only until 11 August, when the Ottoman infantry poured through a breach in the walls and took the city by storm. All the older men of the city were put to the sword, while the younger men and women were enslaved, 8,000 of them being shipped off to Albania. It is estimated that 12,000 of the 22,000 inhabitants of Otranto were killed by the Turks. The aged archbishop of Otranto, Stefano Pendinelli, remained to the last in the cathedral of Otranto, praying for divine deliverance as the Ottoman soldiers slaughtered his congregation. One Italian chronicler says that the Turks sawed the archbishop in two on the high altar of his cathedral, although a more reliable source suggests that he died of fright. The Italian chronicler goes on to say that Gedik Ahmet Pasha had 800 of the townspeople beheaded when they refused to convert to Islam, leaving their remains unburied on the eminence now known as the Hill of the Martyrs. All the martyrs were canonised in 1771 under Pope Clement XIV, and their skulls are still displayed in the cathedral.

After the fall of Otranto the Ottoman cavalry plundered the surrounding region, which was abandoned by all the Italian men capable of bearing arms, leaving only women, children and old men, many of whom were slaughtered. The cavalry extended its raids as far as Taranto on the west and northward to Lecce and Brindisi, so it appeared that Gedik Ahmet was going to use Otranto as his base for a wider invasion of Italy.

King Ferrante, after sending a courier to inform the Pope of the Turkish invasion, quickly mustered an army, which left Naples for Apulia on 8 September. His son, Alfonso, withdrew his troops from Tuscany, and by the end of the month he too headed for Apulia. By the time the Neapolitan forces reached Apulia the Ottoman troops had withdrawn from the surrounding countryside and retired within the walls of Otranto. By then Gedik Ahmet Pasha had returned to Valona with a large part of his army, leaving a garrison of only 6,500 infantry and 500 cavalry in Otranto under Hayrettin Bey, the sancakbey of Negroponte, a Greek convert to Islam who was fluent in Italian. When Ferrante tried to negotiate with Hayrettin Bey he was told that the sultan was not only going to keep Otranto, but that he also demanded Taranto, Brindisi and Lecce. Hayrettin went on to say that if these demands were not met the sultan himself would appear the following spring, leading an army of 100,000 troops and 18,000 cavalry, along with a powerful artillery corps, with which he would conquer all of Italy.

News of the fall of Otranto and rumours of a coming Turkish invasion caused panic throughout Italy. According to Sigismondo de’Conti, the papal secretary, the Pope was so terrified that he contemplated fleeing to Avignon.

In Rome the alarm was as great, as if the enemy had already encamped before her very walls… Terror had taken such hold of all minds that even the Pope meditated flight. I was at the time in the Low Countries, in the suite of the Cardinal Legate Giuliano, and I remembered that he was commissioned to prepare what was necessary at Avignon, for Sixtus IV had decided upon taking refuge with the French, if the state of affairs in Italy should become worse.

But Sixtus regained his nerve and realised that aid had to be given to the Kingdom of Naples, even though Ferrante had recently betrayed him during the Tuscan war. As Sigismondo writes of the Pope’s decision to come to Ferrante’s aid:

Sixtus IV would have witnessed with great indifference the misfortunes and losses of his faithless ally, had Ferrante’s enemy been anyone but the Sultan, but it was a very different matter when the common foe of Christendom had actually got a footing on Italian soil, and speedily the Papacy and Rome itself were threatened with utter ruin, unless he were promptly expelled… [The Pope] at once sent all the money he could get together, permitted tithes to be levied from all the clergy in the kingdom, and promised a Plenary Indulgence to all Christians enlisting under the banner of the Cross.

Later in the summer of 1480 Sixtus issued a bull calling for united Christian action against the invaders before they took all of Italy: ‘How perilous it has become for all Christians,’ he wrote, ‘and especially the Italian powers, to hesitate in the assumption of arms against the Turk and how destructive to delay any longer, everyone can see…’ He went on to warn that ‘if the faithful, and especially the Italians, want to keep their lands, homes, wives, children, liberty, and the very faith in which we were baptised and reborn, let them believe us that they must now take up arms and go to war!’.

King Louis XI of France indicated that he would give his support to an anti-Turkish alliance. The Sforza dukes in Milan also offered the Pope their support, but they said that peace had to be established among the Italian states before they sought help from the French kingdom, ‘for we confess that we cannot see how we may expect foreign aid if we make light of our troubles at home’.

The anti-Turkish coalition, known as the League of Naples, came into being on 16 September 1480, its members consisting of the papacy, the King of Naples, the King of Hungary, the Dukes of Milan and Ferrara, and the Republics of Genoa and Florence. Representatives of the league gathered in Venice at the beginning of October, and the Neapolitan envoys led the pleas for Venetian help against the Turks. The Republic of Venice was exhorted to join the league, but the Signoria immediately declined, saying that for ‘seventeen successive years’ they had fought the Turks almost alone, with an unbearable cost in men and money, and now they could do no more.

Sixtus then began preparations to build a papal fleet in Genoa and Ancona, while at the same time he appealed to England, France and Germany to join the coalition. Emperor Frederick III declined because of internal political problems, as did Edward IV of England, who wrote to the Pope that rather than making war against other Christians, as he was forced to do in order to keep his throne, he would have ‘preferred being associated with the other sovereigns of Christendom in an expedition against the Turk’. Edward had been fearful of a Turkish invasion, and a year earlier he had said that the Pope should have unified Italy, ‘owing to the great perils…for the Christian religion, when the Turk is at the gates of Italy, and so powerful as everyone knows’.

Louis XI assured the Pope that France would participate in the crusade, but only if all the other Christian states shared the burden. The Sforza Dukes of Milan said that aid from northern Europe would be long in coming and that the united Italian states would have to make the effort themselves, even without Venice, ‘because we are prepared to strive beyond our strength for the common safety and to defeat in war the barbarous, butcherly and savage Turks’. The private instructions given to their envoys by the Sforzas began with a statement impressing upon them the grave emergency of the situation. ‘We do not believe that for many centuries a more grave and perilous thing has befallen not only Italy but all Christendom than this…invasion of Calabria by the Turk, both because of the inestimable power and great cruelty of the enemy and because of the utter shame it brings to our religion and the Christian way of life.’

The Pope and the College of Cardinals agreed to contribute 150,000 ducats towards the crusade, 100,000 of which would be spent equipping twenty-five galleys for the papal fleet, the remainder to be sent to King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, who was expected to divert Mehmet’s attention from Italy to central Europe. In addition, Sixtus was recruiting a force of 3,000 infantry. The ambassadors who convened in Rome agreed that a fleet of 100 galleys should be launched for the crusade, and that 200,000 ducats should be sent annually to Corvinus to support his offensive against the Turks. Since the papacy was assuming such a large financial obligation, it expected the other Christian powers to shoulder their share of the burden and sent briefs informing each of them of their assessment. King Ferrante was to provide forty galleys for the Christian fleet and was to send Corvinus 100,000 ducats; Milan was to contribute 30,000 ducats; Florence, 20,000 ducats; Genoa, five galleys; Ferrara and Siena, four galleys each; Bologna, two galleys; Lucca, Mantua and Montferrat, one galley each.

Louis XI sent envoys to Rome to discuss the situation with Pope Sixtus. The king offered to contribute 200,000 ducats a year for the crusade, and if the Pope permitted him to tax the benifices of the clergy in France ‘he would add another 100,000 ducats’. Louis estimated that Italy could easily contribute 40,000 ducats annually for the crusade; Germany, 200,000; ‘all the Spains’, an additional 200,000; ‘and the king of England, who is so powerful and has such rich benifices, 100,000 ducats’. He had been informed ‘that the Venetians are willing to declare themselves against the Turks, provided that they are assured that all Italy is going to join in and will not leave them in the lurch’. His envoys were authorised to commit their king to his pledge of 300,000 ducats annually, provided that he was allowed to tax the clergy, and that the other states of Europe support the crusade to the amounts ‘of which mention is made above’. Louis also noted his desire for assurances of peace from his neighbours to the east, ‘and in making the aforesaid offer he does not discount the fact that he must be safe from the king of England through the duration of the war [against the Turks] and for one year thereafter’. He said that the King of England was ‘as good a friend as he had in the world’, but the Pope had to realise the responsibilities that Louis had to maintain the security of his own kingdom.

Meanwhile, Emperor Frederick III and King Matthias Corvinus were waging war on one another in Austria. At the same time Turkish akincis were raiding in Croatia, Carniola, Carinthia and Styria, some of them even penetrating into Friuli, despite the peace treaty between the Ottomans and Venice.

The Neapolitan army finally went on the offensive during the winter of 1480-1, putting Otranto under siege and containing the Ottoman forces within their beachhead in Apulia. Then in March 1481 the Neapolitan fleet defeated an Ottoman naval force in the Adriatic, cutting off the Turkish garrison in Otranto from the sea and thus intensifying the siege.

On 8 April 1481 Pope Sixtus issued a bull proclaiming a new crusade, summoning all the princes of Europe to arms against the Turks. He imposed a three-year peace on Christendom, beginning on 1 June 1481, lest ‘western Europe go the way of Constantinople and the Morea, Serbia and Bosnia, and the empire of Trebizond, whose rulers (and peoples) had all come to grief’.

But a general fear prevailed that, once again, nothing would come of this effort. The classical scholar Peter Schott, canon of Strasbourg, wrote later that month from Bologna that he had gone to take a last look at Rome ‘before the Eternal City was taken by the Turks’.

End of the Crimean War 1855

Floating Batteries at the Capture of Kinburn.

Having driven Gorchakov’s army out of the south side of Sevastopol the allied commanders were at a loss about what should be done next. The battle had been expensive in soldiers’ lives, ammunition and resources; so much so that it was difficult to avoid a general feeling that they had justified their presence in the Crimea by taking the city whose capture had eluded them for a year. This was particularly true in the French camp where there were smiles and congratulations all round. Pélissier was given a marshal’s baton and, much to the irritation of the British, was appointed a mushir, or commander-in-chief, by the Sultan; Bruat was promoted to full admiral (but did not live long to enjoy the pleasure as he died at sea two months later) and Simpson was awarded the Légion d’Honneur. Even the much-reviled telegraph came into its own on 12 September when Pélissier received the thanks of a grateful emperor: ‘Honneur à vous! Honneur à votre brave armée! Faites à tous mes sincères félicitations.’ (‘All honour to you. Honour to your brave army. I send to you all my sincere congratulations.’)

At home in Paris there were sonorous celebrations allied to a sense of relief; a Te Deum was celebrated in Notre Dame, which had been decorated with the flags of the allied powers. Sevastopol had fallen and in many people’s minds the victory and the part played by Pélissier’s men symbolised a rebirth of French military might. For a few happy hours 1812 became just another dusty date in a long-forgotten history and it seemed possible that Sevastopol was but a springboard for even greater successes against the Russians. Two weeks after Sevastopol fell Rose sent a thoughtful despatch to Clarendon which captured the mood in the French camp:

After 1815 the spirit of the French Army was lowered by a succession of reverses. The successes in Algiers against Barbarians, without artillery, were not sufficient to restore them the prestige they once enjoyed.

But the share of successes which the French Army have had in conquering a Military European Power of the first order, in battles on the field, and in the Siege of a peculiarly strong and invested Fortress, a Siege without many parallels in History, have not only improved, very much, the experiences and military qualifications of the Officers and men of the French Army, but have raised their military feeling and confidence.

To capitalise on that effect Napoleon insisted that the war must continue and that Russia must be humbled before there could be any peace settlement. Not only would that process isolate Russia from Europe but it would also restore France as a major power and destroy for ever the settlement of 1815. It might even be possible to realise Napoleon’s dream of rebuilding the kingdom of Poland and placing his cousin on its throne.

There was much to recommend this way of thinking. France had been left exhausted by the Napoleonic wars and the nation itself had been humbled, its frontiers reduced to those of 1789. Napoleon III certainly believed that he had a mission to restore his country’s fortunes by continuing the war, but he was already swimming against a tide of growing disapproval with the war. While his fellow countrymen had been happy and relieved to celebrate the fall of Sevastopol it could not be denied that the victory had been won at a cost. The casualties seemed to be disproportionate to any diplomatic or strategic gain and the need to keep the forces supplied for another winter was a strain on an already overloaded exchequer. France simply did not have the resources to continue the war and was unable to match the expenditure lavished on it by her British allies. London’s well-filled purse was one very good reason why Napoleon was so desperate to keep the cross-Channel alliance in being.

He had little difficulty in persuading his allies to be assertive. Palmerston remained as bellicose as ever and, together with Clarendon, warned colleagues that the war was far from being over and might last another two or three years. Their message was clear and unwavering: Britain’s war aims would not be altered and there could be no negotiated peace until Russia had been defeated. To achieve that goal Palmerston still thought that it would be possible to construct a grand European alliance similar to the coalition which had defeated Napoleon forty years earlier. As he told Clarendon on 9 October, ‘Russia has not yet been beat enough to make peace possible at the present moment.’ Military pride was also at stake. Palmerston had refused permission for the church bells to be rung in celebration of the recent victory as it was all too evident that British troops had not distinguished themselves in the fighting.

The Turks were keen to see the allies continue the war in the Crimea as this would allow them to open operations in Asia Minor and to that end they insisted that Omar Pasha be allowed to withdraw his army from the Crimea. Russia, too, was adamant that the war was far from over. ‘Sevastopol is not Moscow, the Crimea is not Russia,’ said Alexander II in a proclamation to Gorchakov shortly after the fall of Sevastopol. ‘Two years after we set fire to Moscow, our troops marched in the streets of Paris. We are still the same Russians and God is still with us.’ In military terms the Russian commander had merely made a tactical retreat into a new position which would continue to pose problems to the allies. The tsar also guessed correctly that his enemies had no intention of marching into Russia and that unless Gorchakov were defeated stalemate had returned to the Crimean peninsula. Given that unassailable position, the allies’ only hope of inflicting a decisive defeat seemed to lie in the Baltic; Dundas’s destruction of Sveaborg having given rise to hopes that a similar campaign in the spring of 1856 could crush Kronstadt and leave St Petersburg open to attack by sea and land forces. It was an idea which would exercise the minds of allied planners throughout the winter.

None the less, the continuing public bellicosity could not disguise the fact that there was also a growing desire for peace, especially in France, where Count Walewski, Drouyn de Lhuys’s replacement as foreign secretary, was playing a somewhat different game. An illegitimate son of Napoleon Bonaparte, he was considered by Cowley to be an intellectual lightweight who was too close to the emperor’s pro-Russian half-brother, the Duc de Morny, and therefore not to be trusted. To Clarendon he was a parvenu, ‘a low-minded strolling player’ whose ‘view of moral obligation’ was always ‘subservient to his interests or his vanity’. Palmerston shared that opinion and added the thought that if anything were to happen to the emperor there would be no shortage of French politicians of Walewski’s ilk who would be prepared to sue for peace with the Russians.

There were grounds for these fears. Although Cowley and Clarendon, the British statesmen most directly involved, never lost their suspicions about those who served the emperor – based largely on social snobbery, it must be admitted – they were right to pay close attention to the new French foreign secretary, Walewski. At a time when the allies were attempting to maintain a common front and continue the war he was in secret negotiation with the Russians through the Duc de Morny and a shadowy figure called Baron Hukeren, the adopted son of the Dutch ambassador in Paris, whom Cowley described as ‘among the numerous speculating and political intriguers that abound in the capital’. Initially, Napoleon seems not to have known that covert peace feelers were being made but by October he had given them tacit approval. These were conducted on two fronts: through his friendship with Prince Gorchakov, the duke made it known that France was ready for peace while a similar message was passed by Walewski to Nesselrode’s daughter who was married to the Saxon ambassador in Paris, Baron von Seebach. At the same time the Russian ambassador in Berlin, Baron Budberg, alerted the Prussian government that the tsar was ready to reopen negotiations. While, in themselves, these clandestine talks did not lead to the reopening of peace talks, they at least helped to pave the way.

Meanwhile, as had happened earlier in the year when the Vienna conference seemed to hold out the hope of a cessation of hostilities, the British and French governments urged their commanders in the Crimea to continue the campaign. Having told Simpson that from the Queen’s palace to humblest cottage British hearts were beating with pride at ‘this long looked-for success’, Panmure turned to sterner matters:

The consequences of this event upon the morale of the Russian Army must be very great, and I trust that in concert with Marshal Pélissier you have devised means to take advantage of them and to give the enemy no rest till his overthrow is completed.

In order to keep this object properly in view you must not suffer your mind to rest upon any expectation of peace; your duty as a General is to keep your Army in the best condition for offence and to turn your attention to all the means in your power for so doing.

There was considerable mortification that the victory had not been followed up with a further attack on the Russian position and Panmure told Simpson that there were to be no celebrations in the army until Russia had been finally defeated. A succession of despatches from London attempted to goad the British commander into action but without success. Simpson simply reiterated his and the French belief that it would be folly to attack the Russian positions and he remained unmoved by an unhelpful suggestion that he should think of ‘applying a hot poker’ to make Pélissier do something positive. The impasse was broken on 26 September when Panmure sent a peremptory telegram to the British commander demanding action:

The public are getting impatient to know what the Russians are about. The Government desire immediately to be informed whether either you or Pélissier have taken any steps whatever to ascertain this, and further they observe that nearly 3 weeks have elapsed in absolute idleness. This cannot go on and in justice to yourself and your army you must prevent it. Answer this on receipt.

From the evidence of the correspondence between the two men it is difficult to know what Panmure wanted to achieve from this telegraphic despatch. That he was anxious to hear Simpson play a more martial tune was beyond doubt, yet the commander’s own letters betray a worrying timorousness that was not to be cured by Panmure’s mixture of threats and cajoling. In one letter he would chide Simpson for playing second fiddle to the French and insist on action, ending the despatch with an order that the British soldiers were not to be given spirits before going on sentry duty; in another he would reflect on the pleasure of discussing the campaign at some future date over a bottle of claret. However, his latest despatch had one obvious effect: the man who had gone out to the Crimea with no other thought than to report on Raglan, finally admitted that high command was too great a burden to bear. Two days later Simpson telegraphed his resignation, explaining that he could not remain in command while facing sustained criticism, and his offer to stand down was quickly accepted.

As Codrington was the designated successor, it should have been an easy matter to confirm his promotion, but during the final assault on Sevastopol Codrington seemed to have lost his nerve – Newcastle was particularly withering in his criticism – and renewed thought was given to the command of the army in the Crimea. Once again the candidates’ claims were examined and during the hiatus, which lasted three weeks, Panmure was forced to address his orders simply to the British Headquarters in the Crimea. Despite doubts about his abilities Codrington was confirmed in command on 15 October but did not take over the office until a few weeks later: more than any other attribute, his ability to speak fluent French and his easy social skills seem to have counted in his favour. To soften the blow to the other commanders, on 10 December the army was divided into two corps, command of each going to Campbell and Eyre.

By then the British Army was in a much better position than in the previous year and relatively well equipped to face another winter. Each soldier had been given a new hard weather uniform consisting of two woollen jerseys, two pairs of woollen drawers, two pairs of woollen socks, two pairs of long stockings, one cholera belt, one comforter, a pair of gloves, a fur cap, greatcoat and waterproof cape. At Panmure’s insistence – he was a great stickler for detail – each man was also given, and ordered to use, a tin of Onion’s Drubbing, a new patented waterproof treatment for boots; and on 7 December four hundred field stoves specially designed by Alexis Soyer arrived at Balaklava. As an aid for observing the enemy in forward positions the army was supplied with a thousand trench telescopes of the kind which would be used in the First World War ‘for looking at objects without exposing the viewer’.

With better conditions, the supply problems having been largely solved, the army’s morale improved. Before winter settled in there were race meetings and hurriedly improvised shoots for the officers and theatricals for the men. Despite Panmure’s exhortations about keeping drunkenness at bay the independently owned canteens at Kadikoi did brisk business and, with the Russians content to keep their distance, the miseries of the last winter’s discomforts in the trenches were soon forgotten. By contrast it was now the turn of the French to suffer. Cholera followed by typhus ran through their camp and, added to a general air of disaffection, there were calls from the veterans of the fighting to be sent home. As the casualties from illness began to mount these demands were met: on 13 November Rose reported that the French Imperial Guards regiments were to be withdrawn and that eight line infantry regiments were to return to Algeria. Despite promises to the contrary, these were not to be replaced.

Before the armies went into winter quarters at the beginning of November, the British in good spirits, the French in as sorry as state as their allies had been in the previous season, there were two noteworthy attacks on the Russians. Having despatched part of their cavalry to Eupatoria, French units led by General D’Alonville attacked a larger Russian force on 20 October and succeeded in compelling it to withdraw with the loss of many casualties. However, D’Alonville chose not to follow up the success, other than to continue the harassment of Russian stragglers, because, according to Rose, the French chief of staff, General de Martimprey, had ordered his subordinate commanders to rein in any propensity for offensive activities:

I again perceived that he was opposed to any hostile operation against the enemy on a large scale. But whether he entertains this opinion because he thinks that the Enemy will leave the Crimea, without being forced to do [sic], or because he is of the conviction, which he lately expressed, that negotiations in the winter will bring about a peace, I know not.

The other operation was far more aggressive and it was destined to be the last blow struck by the allies during the war. It was also the most successful, a combined forces’ attack on the Fort Kinburn, a heavily defended Russian position which covered the confluence of the Rivers Bug and Dnieper. The brainchild of Lyons, it made full use of three newly developed French armoured steam batteries which, together with the allied gunboats and battleships, battered the fortress into submission. The French played a full role by committing 6000 men to the infantry force of 10,000, command of which was awarded to General Bazaine, as well as three battleships and a number of gunboats, although it remained unclear if Pélissier’s enthusiasm for the assault was governed more by a succession of orders from Paris or by his newly developed infatuation with Bazaine’s wife, Soledad. During Bazaine’s absence, Pélissier’s coach, captured from the Russians, was to be seen each day outside Soledad’s quarters. It was not the only romance thrown up by the war: Canrobert had fallen for the daughter of Colonel Strangways, the British gunner commander killed at Inkerman, but as with Pélissier’s fondness for Bazaine’s wife nothing came of the wartime dalliance.

The attack on Kinburn, though, was a complete success. On 16 October the infantry and marine forces made an unopposed landing on the Kinburn peninsula to cut off the fortress from reinforcements and to attack the garrison should it decide to retire. The following day, having advanced under cover of darkness, the allied fleet commenced a heavy bombardment, using tactics similar to those employed at Sveaborg a month earlier. Having been infiltrated into the bay in front of the fortress the gunboats and steam batteries were able to produce a sustained bombardment which quickly silenced the Russian guns. Then the allied battleships steamed into line to fire an equally heavy succession of broadsides which left the garrison with no option but to surrender. The way was open to strike inland but Bazaine called a halt to the operation once the forts and Kinburn and Ochakov (on the other side of the estuary) had surrendered. Following the destruction of Sveaborg, the successful outcome of the Kinburn operation demonstrated that the allies now had the naval capacity to attack and defeat Russia’s hitherto impregnable sea-fortresses.

As winter set in other activities included a reconnaissance of the Baider valley to ascertain whether or not an attack on the Russian positions at Simpheropol would yield results. Napoleon thought so but the French-led scouting party reported back that the Russians were entrenched on the high ground and that any attack would only result in unacceptable casualties. That fear lay at the heart of the allied command’s thinking. With the fall of Sevastopol, France had recovered her honour and, just as importantly, her right to sit at the high table when European matters were being discussed. Pélissier did not want to pursue the war against the Russians and by the middle of October he had come to the opinion that the allied army in the Crimea should be reduced by almost half to 70,000 and that it should take up defensive positions on the Chersonese peninsula.

His thinking chimed in with the mood at home where the war was now decidedly unpopular. On 22 October Cowley reported a conversation with the emperor in which Napoleon argued that the war had become an expensive anachronism and that the presence of the allied armies would not encourage Russia to negotiate. That could only be achieved by diplomatic means. As evidence, he produced a report from Pélissier in which the marshal claimed that there was nothing for the allies to conquer in southern Russia – ‘sterile plains which the Russians will abandon after some battles in which they will lose a few thousand men, a loss which causes them no decisive damage, whilst at every step the Allies with a great sacrifice of men and money and with nothing to gain will risk each day the destinies of Europe’.

Castelnuovo

Charles V meets with the Bey of Tunis, 1535. Both Habsburg and Ottoman power in North Africa depended in part on agreements with local clients. Here the size of the Imperial expedition of 1535 is apparent. Note the lines of galleys in the bay to the upper right – projecting power across the Mediterranean took enormous resources.

Town and fortress of Herceg Novi (Ital.: Castelnuovo).

The Ottoman sultan, especially after the conquest of Mameluke Egypt in 1517 (during the first year of King Charles’s reign), enjoyed his own growing influence along the central North African coast. The sultan’s most successful client was Khayr ad-Din, the Barbary pirate better known as Barbarossa for his red beard. Fearful of the growing Spanish influence which threatened his corsairing, in 1518 Barbarossa pledged himself to the sultan Selim and in return received a title and military aid. With a large galley fleet and a mixed army of Maghrebis, Christian renegades, Moorish refugees from Spain and Turkish adventurers, Khayr ad-Din seized Algiers (1529) and Tunis (1534) from local Muslim rulers. In 1533 Süleyman made the pirate his high admiral with all the substantial resources of the Galata dockyards at Constantinople. Barbarossa continued to plague the shores and shipping of Christian Europe until his death in 1546. These were not insubstantial raids, threatening only unlucky fishermen and villagers, but major acts of war. In 1543, his most spectacular year, Barbarossa first sacked Reggio Calabria (for the second time) and then, cooperating with the sultan’s French allies, the city of Nice (a possession of the Spanish-allied Duke of Savoy). The war in North Africa and on the waters of the western Mediterranean thus became a confrontation between the emperor Charles and the sultan Süleyman.

In Charles’s first Mediterranean offensive he personally led the great invasion fleet and 25,000-man army that sailed from Barcelona to take Tunis in 1535, a direct response to Barbarossa’s seizure of the city the previous year. The fortified island of Goletta off Tunis became one of the principal Spanish forts of the Maghreb, and the southernmost position of a Habsburg cordon stretching down from Naples, Sicily and Malta to block further Ottoman expansion. Süleyman replied to the loss of Tunis with a planned invasion of Italy in 1537, landing a preliminary force of horse under the command of an Italian renegade to scour the countryside of Apulia. To secure his crossing to Italy Süleyman first laid siege to the Venetian fortress of Corfu, extensively protected by massive new-style fortifications. The Turkish besiegers proved incapable of reducing the Venetian citadel, and the entire operation had to be abandoned. The next year Charles continued the Spanish offensive, his Genoese admiral Andrea Doria taking Castelnuovo (now Herceg Novi) in Montenegro. In the late summer of 1539 Barbarossa retook Castelnuovo at a tremendous cost of life. Neither power could successfully bridge the straits of Otranto. In 1541 Charles directed an enormous fleet against Algiers, a twin to his successful operation against Tunis in 1535. Again the emperor was personally in command, and success looked certain: Barbarossa was in the eastern Mediterranean; the janissary garrison tiny. But soon after disembarking a tremendous three-day gale utterly wrecked the supporting Spanish fleet, and the invading force (reduced to eating their horses) had to be evacuated. For almost ten years following this Spanish disaster there were no major land operations in the Mediterranean.

Barbarossa (Hayreddin or Kheir-ed-Din Pasha) (c. 1476- 1546)

Ottoman admiral. Born around 1476, at Mitylene on Lesbos, Hayreddin and his older brother Oruj led a fleet of pirate galliots, or open rowing boats, in the Goletta near Tunis.

Ottoman Sultan Bayezit gave Oruj the title of bey (military commander) for his 1505 capture of a Sicilian vessel carrying Spanish soldiers. After Genoese Admiral Andrea Doria drove the brothers from the Goletta in 1512, Oruj moved his base to Djidjelli, Algeria, and Hayreddin moved to Djerba.

In 1516 Oruj and Hayreddin helped the Moriscos (Muslims expelled from Spain) push the Spanish from Algiers. In 1518, however, Spain forced the brothers and their Arab and Morisco allies from Algiers, killing Oruj. Hayreddin rallied the remaining forces, who chose him as their leader and called him “Barbarossa” for his red beard.

Ottoman Sultan Selim I sent 2,000 janissaries and 4,000 soldiers to retake Algiers in 1519, whereupon Barbarossa became beylerbeyi, or governor. King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V tried to retake Algiers in August, but a storm destroyed most of his fleet. Barbarossa then consolidated Ottoman power in Algiers, uniting the Arabs and Berbers with the coastal Moriscos and sending his galliots to raid Spanish and Italian shipping. In May 1529 he forced the Spanish to surrender their base of Penon in Algiers’s harbor. He then had Christian captives build a breakwater to connect Penon with the mainland.

Summoned to Istanbul by Sultan Suleyman I the Magnificent in December 1533, Barbarossa was appointed capudan pasha (admiral in chief). Barbarossa built a galley fleet, which he manned with Anatolian warriors rather than captives or slaves.

In July 1534 Barbarossa used this fleet to raid the Italian coast, and in August he occupied Tunis. King Muley Hassan of Tunis sought aid from Charles V, who sent Andrea Doria there in July 1535. To save his own fleet, Barbarossa withdrew from Tunis. As the Spanish and Genoese celebrated their victory, Barbarossa invaded Spanish waters, taking 6,000 slaves in a raid on Minorca. He then attacked Venetian bases in the Ionian Sea in 1536, and from September to November 1537 he added the remaining Aegean islands to the Ottoman Empire.

Meanwhile, in 1538 Andrea Doria assembled an armada of row galleys and sailing galleons from Genoa, Venice, Spain, and the Papal States to challenge Barbarossa. On 28 September 1538, Barbarossa’s smaller, more maneuverable galleys and galliots defeated the combined armada in a day of fierce fighting off Preveze in the western Ionian Sea, sinking five Spanish sailing ships and two Italian galleys. Venice made peace with the Ottomans in October 1540.

Barbarossa’s fleet supported France’s siege of Nice and forced its surrender in September 1543, then raided Catalonia and Italy, before returning to Istanbul. In establishing Ottoman naval power in the Mediterranean, Barbarossa forced Emperor Charles V to make peace in November 1545.

Barbarossa died at his palace on the Bosphorus in July 1546. For generations, no Turkish ship would pass his tomb at Besiktas in Istanbul without firing a salute to the Ottoman Empire’s “King of the Sea.”

References
Bradford, Ernle D. S. The Sultan’s Admiral: The Life of Barbarossa. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968.
Fisher, Godfrey. Barbary Legend: War, Trade and Piracy in North Africa, 1415–1830. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1957.
Shaw, Stanford. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Vol. 1, Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280–1808. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976.
Wolf, John B. The Barbary Coast: Algiers under the Turks. New York: W. W. Norton, 1979.

Barbarossa, the Pirate Terror of Christendom

The 16th-century Mediterranean was ravaged by brutal pirates called corsairs. When the most feared of all, Barbarossa, allied with the Ottoman Empire, no Christian ship or city was safe.

From his base in Algiers, North Africa, Hayreddin Barbarossa terrorized the western Mediterranean in the first half of the 16th century. He fearlessly hijacked ships and sacked ports, loading his pirate galleys with vast hoards of treasure and prisoners fated for slavery. Yet Barbarossa was much more than a soldier of fortune. He was a skilled warrior with a political instinct that led him to found a prosperous kingdom, allied with the Islamic empire of the Ottoman Turks, and actively defy one of Christian Europe’s most powerful monarchs, the Spanish Emperor Charles V.

However, Barbarossa had modest beginnings. He was born on the Greek island of Lesbos, the son of a Christian renegade who had joined the Ottoman army. Oruç, Barbarossa’s elder brother, was the first to take to the sea in search of adventure. It is unclear whether Oruç joined the powerful Ottoman navy or a merchant vessel, but in 1503 his ship was attacked and captured by the Knights Hospitaller, a Christian military order then based on the island of Rhodes, in present-day Greece. Oruç spent two terrible years as a galley slave on one of the knights’ ships, but eventually he managed to escape. Reunited with his brother, they settled on the island of Djerba, off the coast of Tunisia. The place was a veritable den of corsairs, and they enthusiastically joined their ranks.

The brothers found they had a talent for piracy. Their attacks on Christian ships, especially Spanish ones, brought them huge amounts of loot and attracted the attention of the emir of Algiers, with whom they joined forces. Soon they commanded a fleet of about a dozen ships, which they used to launch daring attacks on Spanish strongholds in North Africa. It was while attacking one of these that Oruç lost an arm to a shot from an early musket called a harquebus.

Founding a Pirate Kingdom

Oruç had begun to dream of becoming more than a mere pirate: he wanted to rule his own North African kingdom. His chance came in 1516, when the emir of Algiers requested his help in expelling Spanish soldiers from the neighboring Peñon of Algiers, a small island fortress. Not a man to miss an opportunity, Oruç established his rule in the city of Algiers, disposing of the emir, who was apparently drowned while having his daily bath. Oruç then had himself proclaimed sultan, to the joy of his brother and a growing army of supporters.

Oruç didn’t stop there. He swiftly moved on to capture the Algerian cities of Ténes and Tlemcen, creating for himself a powerful North African kingdom that threatened and defied the authority of King Charles, just a short sail away in Spain. The Spanish reaction was not slow in coming. In 1518 a fleet set out from the Spanish-controlled port of Oran and soldiers stormed Tlemcen. Oruç fled, only to be found hiding in a goat pen, where a Spanish soldier first lanced him and then beheaded him-an ignominious end for the great corsair.

In Algiers Barbarossa took over as the leader of the corsairs. In the face of renewed Spanish pressure Barbarossa showed his political cunning and sought help from Süleyman the Magnificent, the Islamic sultan of the vast Ottoman Empire centered in Constantinople, present-day Istanbul, Turkey. Süleyman sent him 2,000 janissaries, the elite of the Ottoman army. In exchange, Algiers became a new Ottoman sanjak, or district. This allowed Barbarossa to carry on his piracy while consolidating his position by conquering additional strongholds. Nevertheless, the main threat remained right on his doorstep: the Spanish still occupied the Peñon of Algiers. In 1529 he bombarded the garrison into surrender before beating its commander to death.

Sultan versus Emperor

Barbarossa’s fame spread throughout the Muslim world. Experienced corsairs, such as Sinan the Jew and Ali Caraman, came to Algiers, drawn by the prospects of making their fortunes. But Barbarossa fought for politics as well as piracy. When Charles V’s great Genovese admiral Andrea Doria captured ports in Ottoman Greece, Süleyman summoned Barbarossa, who quickly answered the call. To impress the sultan, he loaded his ships with luxurious gifts: tigers, lions, camels, silk, cloth of gold, silver, and gold cups, as well as slaves, and 200 women for the harem in Istanbul. Süleyman was delighted and made Barbarossa admiral in chief of the Ottoman fleet.

Barbarossa now commanded over a hundred galleys and galliots, or half galleys, and started a strong naval campaign all around the Mediterranean. After reconquering the Greek ports, Barbarossa’s fleet terrorized the Italian coast. Near Naples, Barbarossa and his men attempted to capture the beautiful Countess Giulia Gonzaga, who only narrowly escaped. Barbarossa even threatened Rome, where a dying Pope Clement VII was abandoned by his cardinals, who fled after plundering the papal treasury. However, these raids were just part of a bigger strategy, a diversion to distract from Barbarossa’s true goal, Tunis. It worked; he took the port by surprise in 1534.

Barbarossa’s Revenge

However, Barbarossa’s success was brief. The following year Charles V sent a mighty military expedition that managed to recapture Tunis after a weeklong siege punctuated with bloody battles. Back in Algiers, Barbarossa was undaunted and out for revenge. He sailed to the western Mediterranean, and on approaching the Spanish island of Minorca his ships hoisted flags captured from Spain’s fleet the year before. This ruse de guerre allowed him to enter the port unmolested. When the meager garrison realized the deception, they attempted a defense, but surrendered a few days later on the promise that lives and property would be spared. Barbarossa broke this promise and sacked the city anyway, taking hundreds of people to sell into slavery.

During the next few years Barbarossa, now commanding 150 ships, raided all along the Christian coastline of the Mediterranean. In 1538, cornered in the Ottoman port of Preveza, Greece, he defeated a stronger fleet commanded by Andrea Doria. In 1541 he also repelled the great expedition Charles V personally led against Algiers. Spanish chronicles mention that Barbarossa, by then in his 70s, fell in love with the daughter of the Spanish governor of the Italian coastal fortress of Reggio. True to form, Barbarossa carried her away.

A Muslim Hero

Barbarossa headed from Italy to the French ports of Marseille and Toulon. He was welcomed with every honor, as France and the Ottoman Empire had formed an alliance, united by their rivalry with Charles V. From France, some of Barbarossa’s ships sailed along the Spanish coast sacking towns and cities.

In 1545 Barbarossa finally retired to Istanbul, where he spent the last year of his life, peacefully dictating his memoirs. He died on July 4, 1546, and was buried in Istanbul in the Barbaros Türbesi, the mausoleum of Barbarossa. The tomb was built by the celebrated Mimar Sinan, considered the Ottoman Michelangelo. It still stands in the modern district of Besiktas, on the European bank of the Bosporus. For many years no Turkish ship left Istanbul without making an honorary salute to the grave of the country’s most feared sailor, whose epitaph reads: “[This is the tomb] of the conqueror of Algiers and of Tunis, the fervent Islam soldier of God, the Capudan Khair-ed-Deen [Barbarossa,] upon whom may the protection of God repose.”

The Sultan’s Admiral: Barbarossa: Pirate and Empire Builder

Italo-Turkish War (1911–1912)

Italy determined to grab Libya, the last surviving North African state under nominal Ottoman control, and use it as a buffer against further French expansion. The Italo-Turkish War of 1911-12 demonstrated the effectiveness of the Italian navy led by the reform-minded naval minister Rear Admiral P. L. Cattolica. Calling up its naval reserves, the Italian fleet bombarded the Adriatic coast at Preveza and shelled and captured the Libyan port cities of Tripoli, Tobruk and Benghazi. Moslem Arab guerrilla tactics led to an Italian naval blockade of the Libyan coast, angering France and Britain. The British-led Ottoman fleet retreated behind the Dardanelles, and in the spring of 1912 the Italian navy captured Rhodes and the Dodecanese Islands. When the Italian army overran Libya, Turkey submitted and ceded Libya, Rhodes and the Dodecanese to Italy.

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Italy vs. Turkey

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Libya, Rhodes, and the Dodecanese Islands

DECLARATION: Italy against Turkey, September 29, 1911

MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Italy wanted to establish a North African empire.

OUTCOME: Turkey ceded Libya, Rhodes, and the Dodecanese to Italy.

APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:

Italy, 50,000; Turkey, far fewer, including native Arab troops

CASUALTIES: Italy, 4,000 killed, 6,000 wounded, 2,000 died from disease; Turkey, 14,000 killed or died from disease

TREATIES: Treaty of Ouchy, October 17, 1912

At the end of the 19th century, Italy felt itself woefully behind other nations in acquiring colonial holdings. With the Ottoman Empire crumbling, Italy targeted the Turkish provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) in North Africa as prizes ripe for the picking. Italy began by sending merchants and immigrants into the region during the 1880s. By 1911, these areas had accumulated a substantial population of Italian nationals, and on September 28, 1911, the Italian government, claiming that its nationals were being abused, presented the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman government) with a 24-hour ultimatum, threatening immediate invasion. Receiving no satisfactory reply, Italy declared war and invaded North Africa the next day with 50,000 troops. Caught by surprise, the Turks could do little as Italian forces bombarded Tripoli with 10 battleships and cruisers for two days. A landing force occupied Tripoli on October 5, encountering little resistance.

As a newer state which had been forced to consolidate its own internal position and structure before expanding its horizons to a colonial empire, Italy was slightly later than the other European countries in developing its interests in Africa. But across the Mediterranean Sea from Italy lay the decaying carcass of the Ottoman Empire’s North African possessions, already the subject of intense French efforts at its western end (Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco), and slightly smaller British effort at its eastern end (Egypt). In between lay Libya, and here Italy saw the possibility of securing the important economic and political niche it ‘ desired in North Africa. On 29 September 1911, therefore, Italy declared war on Turkey.

In the shorter terms the Italians tried to distract the attention of the Turks from North Africa, its naval forces undertaking a bombardment of the Turkish base at Preveza on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea in Epiros. For two days (29 and 30 September) the Italians maintained their effort, sinking several Turkish torpedo boats and effectively suggesting that the Italians were interested in a move east across the Adriatic rather than south across the Mediterranean. On 3 October the Italian intentions became clearer when a sustained naval bombardment was started against the major city and port of Libya.

For three days the heavy bombardment of Tripoli continued, compelling the Turkish forces to evacuate the Libyan capital and leaving it open for the Italian invasion force that began to land on 5 October. Farther to the east another force had landed and taken Tobruk on the previous clay. These initial beach-heads were a naval responsibility but an Italian army expeditionary force under General Carlo Caneva arrived on 11 October to expand Italy’s hold in their two areas as well as to occupy Benghazi, Derna, and Homs, thereby securing Italian control of Libya’s littoral. In place the Turks resisted with considerable courage but indifferent capability and the Italians were generally unmolested as they continued with their task of consolidating their initial lodgements.

For the rest of 1911 and the first half of 1912 there followed a military stalemate: the Turks were unable to respond militarily to the Italian invasion, but they inflamed the local Moslem population against the `infidel’ Italians so successfully that Caneva thought it better not to essay further advances, concentrating his efforts instead on the complete consolidation of the Libyan coastal regions. Between 16 and 19 April 1912 the Italians launched a naval feint off the Dardanelles, this persuading the Turks that the Italians intended to sail through to Constantinople and attack the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Widespread defensive measures were rushed through, but the Italians withdrew as the Turks succeeded in closing the straits.

The Italians’ real interest in the area was the Dodecanese islands in the southern part of the Aegean Sea and in May 1912 the Italians took Rhodes and other islands without resistance. Then in July the Italians started finally to expand their holding in Libya, cautious but well-planned moves steadily increasing the area of Italian conquest. The campaign culminated in decisive Turkish defeats at Derna and Sidi Bilal, and on 15 October the Treaty of Ouchy was signed to bring the war to a close. Turkey faced a clear threat from the imminent Balkan wars far closer to home, and after two months of negotiations the treaty conceded Italy’s possession of Libya and the islands already seized in the Aegean. Assessment of Italy’s campaign was in general unfavourable, for against indifferent opposition poorly led in areas far from home, the extraordinarily cautious Italians had been checked for a substantial period.

Having declared itself neutral, Egypt refused passage to Ottoman troops, so that Turkey had to enlist the aid of Arabs, who occupied coastal regions and brought the war to a standstill in November 1911. Italy sought to break the stalemate with the naval bombardment of Beirut and Smyrna, then followed this by occupying Rhodes, Jos, and other islands of the Dodecanese. Italian vessels bombarded Turkish fortifications protecting the Dardanelles, which forced the closure of the straits.

The Turks and their Senussi allies retreated to the interior; the Italians held their coastal enclaves and maintained a close blockade. In July 1912, Italy launched an offensive into the Libyan interior.

The toughest battle the Italians faced in Libya was not against the Turks, however, but against pro-Turkish Senussi tribal warriors, who made a fierce attack on Tripoli during October 23-26, 1911, in an attempt to retake the Libyan capital. The Italian defenders lost 382 killed and 1,158 wounded in repulsing the attack. The tribesmen lost about 1,000 killed and wounded, but were forced to withdraw.

If the Italians faced fierce “primitive” opposition, they themselves employed some very modern weapons. In addition to naval bombardment, the Italians introduced into the land war the first armored fighting vehicle. The Bianchi, a wheeled armored car, fought in Libya in 1912 with good results. The Bianchi heralded the use of armored cars and tracked vehicles-tanks-in WORLD WAR I.

Invasion

The invasion of Libya was well planned. The 1884 operational plan had been updated periodically, most recently on the eve of the invasion. As it turned out, however, the plan was based on certain highly questionable assumptions.

First, it had been decided after some debate that the large Arab population of Libya was not likely to take part in the fighting against Italian forces and could safely be ignored. The assumption, shortly to be proved erroneous, was that the Arabs, oppressed as they were by their Turkish overlords, would welcome Italian “liberation”, or at the very least remain neutral. The idea that the Arabs might make common cause with the Turks on religious grounds seems to have been dismissed by the Italian general staff.

Secondly, it was assumed by the planners that Turkish opposition would not be heavy. Italy’s military attaché in Istanbul assured Rome that Turkey was already heavily committed in the Near East and in the Balkans and would not be in a position to offer much resistance in Libya. Intelligence reports indicated that there were only 5,000-6,000 Turkish troops in Libya, most of them in Tripoli, the capital. It was expected that this handful of troops would resist just long enough to uphold their honour and would then march off for home through Egypt. The possibility that the Turks might, instead, retreat into the desert and wage a guerrilla war does not seem to have been discussed.

The army learned in early September 1911 that the invasion of Libya was going ahead and began making the necessary preparations. Orders were drafted and efforts made to assemble the matériel necessary to equip an expeditionary force. Troops were called up on 23 September and two days later the navy was mobilized. On 27 September an ultimatum was presented to the Turks, giving them 24 hours to turn over the Libyan coastal region, Cyrenaica and Tripoli and its environs, to Italy. The Turks refused, and the Libyan War of 1911-12 was on.

An Italian expeditionary force of just under 45,000 men set sail for the shores of Tripoli under the command of General Carlo Caneva. Tripoli, however, was already in Italian hands when the soldiers arrived, having fallen almost without a struggle to a landing brigade of sailors and marines. The main task of the army over the next two weeks was to secure the city of Tripoli against the possibility of a Turkish counterattack. Although the Turkish garrison had disappeared before the first Italian troops landed, and it could be assumed that they had fled the country, no chances were taken. The oasis surrounding Tripoli was occupied and a defence perimeter 5 km-deep drawn around it. To the west and south, where the oasis faded into desert, trenches were dug and barbed wire strung. To the east, however, the Italian positions fronted onto an Arab quarter called Sciara Sciat, and here no attempt was made to erect defences. During this initial period of the occupation every effort was made to convince Italy and the rest of the world of the truth of one of the assumptions underlying the invasion, that the Arabs of Libya welcomed deliverance from their Turkish oppressors. Relations between the expeditionary force and the local population were described as a “happy partnership”.

On 23 October, this illusion was rudely shattered. A joint force of Turks and Arabs launched attacks all along the Italian defence perimeter. The main thrust, however, hit the part of the line which was weakest, the unfortified section opposite the Arab quarter of Sciara Sciat. After fierce fighting, the attackers were beaten back, but not before some 250 Italian soldiers captured at Sciara Sciat were taken to a Muslim cemetery and killed. While the Turkish and Arab dead numbered thousands, Italian losses were also unacceptably high: 500 dead and 200 wounded.

Having chosen to believe that the Arabs were estranged from their Turkish overlords, the joint Turkish-Arab assault took the Italian high command completely by surprise. The other ranks, who had been told that they had nothing to fear from the Arabs, were shocked and outraged at what had happened.

Officers and men were ignorant of Arabs and Berbers, and saw in their resistance to conquest and fearlessness of death evidence of their bestialita. Panic, and a desire to inflict reprisals on a native populace which had apparently betrayed them, led to a brief orgy of summary executions in which hundreds – perhaps thousands – of Arabs were shot.

The Italian reprisals stirred international protests. In order to avoid the possibility of outside intervention and a settlement by arbitration which would surely fall far short of Italian goals, the Giolitti government was now forced to escalate the war. Troop levels were increased, until Italy had nearly 100,000 men in Libya. Plans were made to occupy the rest of Tripolitania, which would be officially placed under the Italian flag, and to occupy Turkish islands in the Aegean and blockade the Turkish mainland. The campaign into the Tripolitanian interior was launched, towns were taken, but the anticipated enemy capitulation failed to take place.

The rest of the war was a stalemate in the desert between an Italian army that lacked the resources and will power to carry the fight into the interior, and a Turkish-Arab force that held the initiative but was too weak to break through the Italian defences. On the sea, the Italian navy tried to lure the Turkish fleet out of the Dardanelles into a general engagement, and, when this failed, contented itself with occupying a number of Turkish islands, including Rhodes.

Fortunately for Italy, the Turks were in an even tighter spot than she was. Their troops in the Libyan desert had not been paid for months, and were falling sick and running short of water. Besides, Turkey had a number of looming crises in the Balkans to contend with. In Lausanne in the summer of 1912, peace terms were finally agreed. Italy was given Libya and agreed to leave the Aegean islands once Turkish troops had departed from North Africa. Since the Turks did not evacuate their troops from Libya until the end of the First World War, Italy held on to the Aegean islands.

Italy had survived what would soon be known as Phase One of the war in Libya; she had not won a victory. Her army had failed to defeat the enemy in the field, even though it was equipped with the latest military hardware, including aircraft. And while the Turks had submitted to the loss of Libya – officially, at least – the Libyan people themselves were unwilling to accept a transfer to a new set of masters, especially Christian ones. The guerrilla warfare in the desert was resumed despite the Lausanne accords, and would continue on well into the interwar period.

Part of the problem for Italy was the difficulty of getting her conscript army to adjust to fighting an anti-guerrilla war in the desert. No training for this kind of warfare had been provided before the troops left; common soldiers had been given only a fleeting and inaccurate idea of the nature of the population they would find in Libya and the enemy they would have to fight. As far as transporting the army to Libya, the planning had been handled well enough, but once the troops had come ashore, it seems to have foundered. Having confidently assumed that the Turks would simply melt away and that the Arab population would be friendly, the general staff had made no further operational plans.

The war was costly both in lives and money. Some 4,000 Italian soldiers died in combat, from wounds or disease; another 5,000 were wounded. The war cost just over one billion lire – about half of Italy’s total annual revenue. The Libyan adventure drained the nation’s defence forces at home of men, rations, ammunition, horses and other supplies. Almost all the infantry machine gun sections ended up in Africa. When the First World War broke out, there were still 50,000 Italian troops in Libya. “Before 1911 Italy had been militarily weak on one continent”, wrote John Gooch, “after 1912 she was weak in two”.

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The first campaign in which military aeroplanes were employed was the war between Italy and Turkey in Libya in 1911-12. An Air Flotilla of the Italian army, consisting of nine aeroplanes, 11 pilots and 30 mechanics, was despatched by sea to Tripoli in October 1911. In August 1911 the Italian Army manoeuvres had shown a potential for aircraft in general reconnaissance roles, and on 25 September came an order to mobilise the Italian Special Army Corps and, more significantly. an Air Flotilla. On that date the Flotilla comprised a total of nine aeroplanes-two Bleriot XI monoplanes, two Henry Farman biplanes, three Nieuport monoplanes, and two Etrich Taubes-manned by five first-line pilots, six reserve pilots and 30 airmen for all forms of technical maintenance. All nine machines were immediately dismantled, crated and sent by sea to Libya, arriving in the Bay of Tripoli on 15 October. With minimum facilities available, the crated aircraft were put ashore and transported to a suitable flying ground nearby, where assembly commenced almost immediately. The first aeroplane was completed by 21 October.

On their arrival the aeroplanes were uncrated and assembled, the first being ready for action within a week. On 23 October a Bleriot XI monoplane, piloted by Capitano Carlos Piazza, the Air Flotilla’s commander, made a reconnaissance flight over advancing Turkish forces. This was the first sortie by a military aeroplane in wartime.

Further reconnaissance flights followed and the Air Flotilla’s military usefulness was increased by using the aeroplanes to observe artillery fire and to correct the gunners’ aim by dropping them messages. On the initiative of Capitano Piazza, one of the Bleriots was fitted with a plate camera for aerial photography. In November a second air unit was despatched from Italy and this established itself at Benghazi. Its commander, Capitano Marengo, distinguished himself in May 1912 by making the first night reconnaissance flight. His only night-flying aid was a torch attached to his flying helmet.

The great innovation of the Libyan Campaign was aerial bombing, which was first tried during a raid on the Tanguira Oasis on 1 November 1911. By February 1912 the early hand-held bombs had been replaced by a bomb cell fitted to each machine which could release up to ten bombs individually or in salvoes. Opposition to the Italian aeroplanes was confined to ground-fire, but the only fatal casualty among the Italian airmen was the result of a flying accident rather than enemy action. By the end of the conflict the aeroplane had been convincingly demonstrated as a weapon of war.

The Scramble for Africa triggered a succession of Islamic-inspired revolts against European imperialism. When Italy invaded Libya in 1911, the Ottoman Empire stirred its nominal Muslim subjects into a fierce jihad. Here, Libyan Muslims swear an oath of fidelity to the Ottomans.

Despite the Senussi resistance, the Ottoman forces were simply overwhelmed. Moreover, the Sublime Porte was reeling in the aftershock of the recently concluded YOUNG TURKS’ REVOLT from 1908 to 1909. Therefore, the Ottoman government concluded the Treaty of Ouchy on October 17, 1912, by which the Turks ceded Libya, Rhodes, and the Dodecanese to Italy.

Further reading: Denis Mack Smith, Italy, a Modern History (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1969); Rachel Simon, Libya between Ottomanism and Nationalism: The Ottoman Involvement in Libya during the War with Italy 1911-1919 (Berlin: K. Schwarz, 1987).