Chapter

The Little Ice Age Crisis of the Ottoman Empire

Sam White

in Water on Sand

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199768677
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979608 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199768677.003.0003
The Little Ice Age Crisis of the Ottoman Empire

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After centuries of conquest and expansion, the Ottoman Empire descended into crisis in the 1590s as a widespread uprising known as the Celali Rebellion ushered in decades of economic dislocation, military setbacks, and flight and chaos in the countryside. This chapter offers a fundamental reinterpretation of this social unrest, combining original archival research with new data and perspectives from climatology to present the crisis as a critical conjuncture of ecological pressures and deteriorating climate brought on by the Little Ice Age. Already by the 1580s, rapid population growth had placed the empire's elaborate provisioning systems under stress. As the Ottomans fell into a grueling war with the Habsburgs in 1593, the Eastern Mediterranean also descended into its worst drought in six centuries, punctuated by the coldest winters in memory. A widespread epizootic proved fatal to imperial stability, as unbearable wartime requisitions combined with famine and desperation to foment rebellion. The depopulation of the countryside and the nomadic invasions that followed unraveled centuries of settlement and demographic expansion. This chapter thus illustrates some of the major environmental forces at work in the Ottoman Middle East and the power of environmental history to reinterpret the region's past.

Keywords: Ottoman Empire; little ice age; Celali Rebellion; climate; general crisis of the seventeenth century; provisioning; Habsburg Empire; drought; famine

Chapter.  8818 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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