Between 1854 and 1881, the Ottoman Empire went through one of the most critical phases of the history of its relations with European powers. Beginning with the first foreign loan contracted in 1854, this process was initially dominated by a modest level of indebtedness, coupled with sporadic and inconsequential attempts by western powers to impose some control over the viability of the operation. From 1863 on, a second and much more intense phase began, which eventually led to a snowballing effect of accumulated debts. The formal bankruptcy of the Empire in 1875 resulted in the collapse of the entire system in one of the most spectacular financial crashes of the period. It was only six years later, in 1881, that a solution was found in the establishment of the Ottoman Public Debt Administration that would control a large portion of state revenues. The new system restored the financial stability of the Empire, but profoundly modified its rapports de force with Europe by imposing on it a form of foreign control that would have been unthinkable only ten or twenty years earlier. While bringing a much-needed stability to the flailing Ottoman financial situation and thus opening the way to economic development, the new system also radically changed the very nature of the process of integration, by introducing an imperialist dimension that had been lacking in the previous decades.
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