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The Ottoman Conscription System, 1844–1914

  • Erik Jan Zürcher
    • Published online: 02 April 2001
Abstract

The introduction of conscription in the Ottoman Empire of course was closely linked to the introduction of a European-style army, but it did not coincide with it.

As is well known, the first attempt to create an army which was trained, equipped and dressed in the contemporary European fashion, was made by Sultan Selim III in 1792. His Nizam-i Cedid (New Order) army by all accounts was quite an impressive achievement in itself. Starting from a strength of about 2,500, the corps had 22,685 men and 1,590 officers in 1806, half of them stationed in the capital, the rest in provincial centres in Anatolia. When pressure against him and his new army on the part of the old army establishment, primarily the Janissaries, mounted, however, the Sultan succumbed without any attempt to use the considerable strength of his new army and disbanded the corps in 1808.

The Nizam troops constituted a professional army. They were not recruited on the basis of universal conscription, but rather in a fashion which is reminiscent of the system introduced by Peter the Great in Russia or the Bunichah system in Persia. Governors and notables in Anatolia (not in the Balkans or the Arab provinces) were required to send contingents of peasant boys to Istanbul for training. Those enrolled in the corps remained under arms for an unspecified period.

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International Review of Social History
  • ISSN: 0020-8590
  • EISSN: 1469-512X
  • URL: /core/journals/international-review-of-social-history
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