Many ‘Western’ history books (including virtually all histories of the Gallipoli campaign) use the terms ‘Ottomans’ and ‘Turks’, and ‘Ottoman Empire’ and ‘Turkey’ as if they are interchangeable. The words may be synonymous to English-speaking peoples, but in fact they have quite specific historical meanings.
The Ottoman Empire was founded by a Turkish tribe in the fourteenth century AD. As it expanded, many other ethnic groups came under Ottoman control. By the time the empire reached its peak in the seventeenth century, the Turkish component of its population (most of whom lived in Anatolia) was probably a minority. Many other ethnic groups—Greeks, Kurds, Arabs, Bulgarians, Serbs, Croats, Albanians, Hungarians, Armenians, Macedonians and others—were also citizens of the empire.
In the early years of the empire, the Imperial Ottoman Court was mainly under the control of Turkish tribes but, as time passed, these other ethnic groups began asserting control over the affairs of state.
Many non-Muslims, who changed their name and their religion, served the sultan as administrators, trade or commercial agents, or in some other capacity. These people, called ‘devshirme’ (meaning converted or recruited), became an important political force. The sultan's harem followed the devshirme tradition. Many of its women were kidnapped, bought or offered as gifts from various parts of the empire. If not already Muslim, they were converted to Islam and given Muslim names. Some even mothered the imperial children. It is quite possible, therefore, that many of the sultans were of nonTurkish, non-Muslim blood.
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Publication information: Book title: Gallipoli:The Turkish Story. Contributors: Kevin Fewster - Author, Vecihi Başarin - Author, Hatice Hürmüz Başarin - Author. Publisher: Allen & Unwin. Place of publication: Crows Nest, N.S.W.. Publication year: 2003. Page number: xi.
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