Ottoman Empire in Asia, Turkey, Levant and Mesopotamia. [Asian Part of the Ottoman Empire].


Book ID: 32098


Colour lithograph with additional original hand colour, mounted upon japan for preservation, 75 x 100.5 cm (29.5 x 39.5 inches), scale to 2,250,000, rolled in good condition, mounted with some wear and holes along former fold vertices, some light stains, lovely original colours, Constantinople, [circa 1910].


A large, highly attractive separately issued map of the Ottoman Empire in Asia, made during the great era of railway construction (the Hejaz Railway and the Baghdad Railway) and shortly before World War I.
This large map, with resplendent original colours, features the Ottoman Empire in Asia, and was printed in Constantinople in Ottoman Turkish script around 1910, during great era of railway construction that aimed to link the sultan’s entire remaining realm into a coherent, modern state. The map focusses upon the most populous regions of Ottoman Asia, being Anatolia, the Levant and Mesopotamia, while the Basra Vilayet (southern Iraq) and the Arabian Peninsula appear in insets maps in the lower-right quadrant.
The map labels all major cities and towns and divides the vilayets and kazas with beautifully coloured lines. Notably, the map features an excellent depiction of the partially completed Baghdad Railway (German: Bagdadbahn), a mega-project that aimed to extend the Anatolian Railway all the way to Baghdad (and possibly beyond to Basra and the Persian Gulf). Backed by Germany, the endeavour was considered by Britain to be a major threat to its geopolitical interests and was a key matter going into World War I.
The map also features the line of Hejaz Railway, which was built from Damascus to Medina by 1908. While meant to eventually reach Mecca, the holiest Muslim site, the line was never extended owing to the advent of World War I.
Politics, Economic Development and Cartography in the Late Ottoman Empire From the mid-19th Century onwards, the Ottoman Empire was labelled in the Western media as the ‘Sick Man of Europe’ and seemed to be in inexorable decline. Indeed, during this period, the empire lost much territory to internal rebellions and wars with its rivals, while foreign powers assumed tremendous control over the country’s economy and political affairs. However, while this is all true, it masks that fact that during the same period the Empire made dramatic advances in economic development, education, science, infrastructure and military training. Istanbul, became one of the world’s great economic centres, fuelled by international trade and foreign financed mega-projects.
The reign of Abdul Hamid II (1876 – 1909) marked a period of radical social and economic change. Shortly after the sultan assumed power, he approved the Constitution of 1876 that promised to make the Ottoman Empire a constitutional democracy. However, the Empire’s defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8, which resulted in the loss of territory in the Balkans and the Caucuses, soured the mood. In 1878, Abdul Hamid II rescinded the Constitution and ruled as an autocrat.
In 1881, the Ottoman government defaulted on its foreign debt, and much of its public finances and industry were taken over by the Anglo-French Ottoman Public Debt Commission and the Imperial Ottoman. While the quasi-colonial foreign control of the country’s economy was much resented, it nevertheless financed a boom of construction of railways, factories, telegraph lines, roads and educational facilities that allowed the Ottomans to enter the Industrial Revolution. This had a transformative impact in not only upon the nation’s economy but had sweeping social, political and military ramifications.

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