Why did the Great Ottoman Empire not Colonize America? (Opinion)



The Ottoman Empire was one of the mightiest and longest-lasting empires in history. It ruled over the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and North Africa for more than 600 years until it was declared a republic in the 1900s. It had one of the best armies with the best military power. The colonialism of most parts of the powerful regions made them even stronger. As America was discovered, it was like discovering a new world, full of riches and power. The Ottomans, however, never got that far and never pursued the goal of colonizing America.

There is a myth that they could not colonize the new world because they had an indefensible army and were not capable of doing so, which is absolutely not true. On the contrary, they had the best army of their time and could have easily gone through the trouble of reaching the new world. So now, the question is, why did such a powerful empire not pursue the goal of finding the New World and colonizing it?

A History of Power

The Ottoman Empire has a well-recognized history. Even today, people know it for its artistic ventures, religious tolerance, remarkable architecture, ethnic diversity, and, above all, its mighty army. They were feared and loved at the same time. In particular, the period of Suleiman the Magnificent led to some drastic changes in the Empire, making it absolute power.

He conquered and took charge of many important lands. During his reign, the Empire grew to be one of the most powerful states during the 15th and 16th centuries. They were not just powerful but also had an alliance of powerful countries while their rules spread across Europe efficiently.

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Mamluk Sultanate formed a new rule for the spice trade. They imposed heavy taxes on all trades to Europe, while only Venetian merchants were permitted to do so. This made the European countries suffer under circumstances that were not under their control because the spice trade was essential for them. Meanwhile, the Mamluks made a fortune out of it.

The Increasing Power of the Portuguese Kingdom

The Kingdom of Portugal had a culture of exploring new regions for two reasons: to spread Christianity and gather as much loot and slaves as possible. Although they disagreed on this, the ancient dynasties were desperate for any slaves or gold they could easily get their hands on. In 1417, King John I of the Portuguese Empire obtained a foothold on the Northern African coast while his third son, Henry the Navigator, best known for his voyages of discovery across most of Africa, continued to provide for and finance the expeditions to the Atlantic Ocean and across Africa, discovering new lands.

His biographer, Gomez Eanes de Zurara, wrote that he was blessed by God Himself to spread the desire to follow Christianity among people. Although his character and achievements have been written in golden words by many people, his achievements are still questioned by many historians. Nevertheless, his contributions to the expeditions and exploration of new areas resulted in the successful and fruitful colonialism of the Azores and Madeira Islands, where sugar was cultivated, and also the Atlantic coast of Africa, where forts were established, which were the outposts to establish trade with local traders, especially those from the Gulf of Guinea.

Events Leading to the Discovery of the New World

In 1488, the explorer Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope from where the Indian and Atlantic oceans connected. King John II of the Portuguese empire also sent his explorers and agents, Pêro da Covilhã and Afonso de Paiva, who entered the Indian Ocean through the Mamluk Sultanate and reached India. After these travels, Pêro advised the king to take the maritime route around Africa because it was safer than the others.

Soon after, the news spread like wildfire that the Genoese explorer, Christopher Columbus, who was hired by the kings of Castile and Aragon thinking that they might find a way into the markets of India to make the trade more accessible, encountered lands to the west instead. When Columbus arrived back, he did not bring any spices along, which made it very clear that the lands to the west were different from those of Asia, which made them curious about finding out more.

The Indian Spice Trade Routes

While the West’s discovery was going on, the Portuguese empire was in a state of desperation to find trade routes to the Indian market, as the Mamluks were making money out of their needs. So Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer, navigated again from the southern tip of Africa in 1497, entering Calcutta, India, best known for its spice market, and establishing new trade routes. But, unfortunately, he set a basis on the way back, which turned out to be the means of conflict between the Portuguese and the Arab merchants.

The Crash of Mamluk Power

With new trade routes being found, there was a sudden collapse in the Mamluk’s economy, subsequently impacting its political power. The spice routes were now causing a downfall in their economy, and the Ottomans began to take over new regions under their control.

A New Power

The Ottomans conquered Egypt and Syria before making their mark in Mesopotamia by capturing Basra in 1555, giving them access to the Persian Gulf. The Ottomans were now becoming a new power in the Indian Ocean. With access to the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, they could have easily taken a route to the New World. So why didn’t they?

The Intention of Entry

According to experts, the Ottomans did intend to enter the new world. In 1517, the Turkish Captain Ahmed Muhiddin Piricreated a world map using the sources of twenty different maps and showed it to Sultan Suleiman. They called the new world discovered by Columbus the “Vilayat Antiliqa”.

The discovery was made when a Spanish prisoner was taken in who had the map created by Columbus of his expeditions to the west. The captive claimed that he had been to America three times, which was the exact number of voyages that Columbus had made.

The only problem was that they did not have a geographical position, as Spain blocked the exit from the Mediterranean Sea. Spain and the Ottomans did not get along well, as they had an alliance with the Portuguese, who were the main rivals of the Ottomans. The Ottomans would have to circumnavigate the entire African continent to reach America, which would have cost a lot. They didn’t even know the actual profit they might get on reaching the new world as it was under speculation.

The Downfall of the Ottomans

The downfall happened for many reasons, but the foremost was poor leadership. After the rule of Sultan Suleiman, a series of leaders who were primarily self-indulged led the Ottoman Empire to rot from the inside slowly. After the downfall, the Empire had to compete with the trade taking place from America, the New World, which was full of riches, but the Empire was now not competent enough to lead the expeditions and take over.

The trade from India was also efficient and brought in a lot of money. Columbus sailed across the east and accidentally discovered Brazil. The Empire had been battling against the Portuguese for years to gain control over the trade routes but was unsuccessful as their power declined during the 16th century. The growing corruption within the Empire caused colossal damage. Although the Empire truly ended in 1922 due to the aftermath of World War I when Turkey was named as a republic, its capability to expand was halted centuries before that.

Maybe the Empire would have taken over America in time and would have discovered the new world when they had the power to. There is a high chance that the Empire would have been more powerful and would have survived.

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