Despite the expansion and growth of European power, the Islamic world remained a potent rival. Three powerful Muslim states thrived from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries – the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals. Each ruling dynasty had begun as nomadic warriors, but each created successful administrations that ruled vast areas. These three states also proved very adept in warfare, and were sometimes referred to as “the gunpowder empires.” The Ottoman Empire even threatened the heart of Europe, before they were repulsed. Slowly, all three states declined. Internal factionalism and weak rulers undermined their stability, while complacency hindered technological developments. The weakening of these empires coincided with the increasing growth and expansion of European nations, who would soon move into the vacuum created by the collapse of these Muslim empires.
Map Fall of Constantinople
How did the Turks succeed in toppling Constantinople?
From which direction(s) did they attack?
Map 15.1. The Ottoman Empire
Who was the founder of the Ottoman empire? From where did the Turkic-speaking peoples originally come? What religious values were spread by the extension of Ottoman power?
Who were the major competitors to the early Ottomans? Who represented the greatest threat to their power in the seventeenth century?
What role did the Janissaries play in the Ottoman empire? How did their presence balance the military forces organized by sultans and beys?
Map 15.2. The Ottoman and Safavid Empires, c. 1683
Why do some scholars considered the Ottoman empire to have been a "gunpowder empire"? What does this term mean? Why is it used to describe the Safavid and Mughal empires as well?
Map 15.3. The Mughal Empire
Briefly describe the contributions of the following rulers of the Mughal dynasty: Babur, Humayun, and Akbar. How far did Akbar extend the territories he inherited?
Which Europeans were the first to establish a presence in India under the Mughals?
How did European, especially British, trade and industry contribute to the decline of this empire?
Map 15.4. India in 1805
Why did the Dutch and Portuguese ultimately cede India to British interests? Why did the French? How did the British acquire Bombay?
What interests of the English East India Company motivated British conquest of India?
Chronology: The Ottoman Empire
Why was Constantinople so important to Ottoman aspirations? What plans did Orkhan I and Mehmet II have for the city? What was the city called after 1453?
Into what regions did Selim and Suleyman I expand the Ottoman empire? What opposition did they encounter?
How did the Ottoman presence transform the countries that came under Turkish rule?
Chronology: The Safavids
Why did the Safavids claim supremacy and orthodoxy in contrasting themselves with the Ottomans? What conflicts resulted from these claims?
Why was Shah Abbas I known as "Abbas the Great"? What was his relationship to the prophet Muhammad?
What political, military, and economic measures did the shahs of Persia use to efficiently run their empire? What special authority accompanied the title of shah?
Chronology: The Mughal Era
What era is initiated by the arrival of Vasco da Gama at Calicut? How do the Jesuit missions, the foundation of English and French territories in India, and the Battle of Plassey, all derive from that initial event?
What role did Empress Nur Jahan play in the transition of Mughal rule from Jahangir to Shah Jahan?
Why was Madras especially desired by the French?
Chapter Timeline: From the Capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks to the Collapse of the Safavid Empire
Identify the following eras on this timeline: Ottoman empire, Safavid empire, and the reign of the Mughal dynasty in India.
What did the term "shah" mean when it was used by Persian rulers? What achievements of Shahs Ismail, Abbas and Jahan reflect the various implications of this title?
Ottoman Primary Sources:
The Fall of Constantinople: Kritovoulos, Life of Mehmed the Conqueror
How did the Byzantines attempt to defend their city from the forces of Mehmet II? Why did these efforts fail?
How does this Greek author depict the Turkish sultan?
Why does Kritovoulos say that the soldiers attacked the citizens of Constantinople? What other motivations are possible?
A Portrait of Suleyman the Magnificent: Ghislain de Busbecq, The Turkish Letters
Busbecq states that his message to the Sultan "did not correspond with his [Suleyman's] expectations." Why? What expectations might the Sultan have had in regard to the Habsburg rulers?
What evidence does this document provide for the harem system in Turkish courts? For the difficulties in succession?
A Turkish Discourse on Coffee: Katib Chelebi, The Balance of Truth
From where did the Turkish first import coffee? What other products became poplar in Turkish culture at this time?
What prohibitive measures did Turkish rulers attempt to impose on the trade and drinking of coffee? Why did these prohibitions fail?
Safavid Primary Source:
The Religious Zeal of Shah Abbas the Great: The Conversion of a Number of Christians to Islam
How does the biographer of Shah Abbas I justify that ruler's policy of forcible conversion to Islam?
How does he suggest were the shah's own professed motives?
What methods of conversion were found most effective?
Mughal Primary Sources:
The Mughal Conquest of North India: Babur, Memoirs
Locate Agra on map 16.3. How far did Babur extend his empire from this point? How did he enrich this city after his victory?
To what does Babur attribute his success in warfare? What religious view is he expressing here?
The Power Behind the Throne: Nur Jahan, Empress of Mughal India
Why was Nur Jahan able to rule India herself?
How did she exert her power and influence over the court?
The Uses of the Coconut: Duarte Barbosa, The Book of Duarte Barbosa
How did the use of leaves "as paper," noted here by Barbosa, affect the early history of Indian painting?
Why does Barbosa call the Indians "the Heathen"?
Why would this Portuguese official describe the coconut in such detail? To what purposes might this document have been put?