History Essay on Spanish and the Ottoman Empire

Published: 2021-06-30
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Middlebury College
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Between 1450 and 1800 the Ottomans and the Spanish built two flourishing empires. The Ottomans took control of Europe while the Spanish were conquering new places. Each of these empires had different approaches of prospering. For instance, unlike the Spanish, the Ottoman Empire accepted different religions. Although they applied different techniques to achieve their respective successes, some of their approaches were similar. Both were territories that were founded upon war, and they had same but different ideologies when they built their social, economic and political structures of their empire.

These two empires had one thing in common, they used their military power conquer other territories and expand their influence. Based on Quataert (2013) findings, the Ottomans under the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent managed to expand their borders as far as into Persia and Egypt. Moreover, they continued to expand their borders by controlling trade routes and spreading Islam which led to growing economy on their side. They also benefited from the services of Janissaries (army of trained foreigners) who helped them capture more land, in addition to that the Ottomans also inherited navies from other empires such as the Mamluks, Black Sea, and Aegean navies. Like their counterparts, the Spanish used their military prowess to enrich their trade and to promote their religion. The Spanish empire had a very skilled navy called the Spanish Armada, and they used their military power to expand in the Americas while the Ottomans used their power to expand over Africa, Asia, and Europe (Quataert, 2013).

To broaden their economy, the Ottoman and the Spanish empire both participated in capturing more lands so that they could make more profits in controlling trade and in the slave trade. In 1453 the Ottomans captured the Constantinople. It was strategically located, and this allowed the Ottomans to control the trade routes and also charge trading taxes. By doing this, their economy grew significantly since they accumulated a lot of wealth in the process. After capturing the Constantinople, the Ottomans proceeded to the west to capture more land. On the other hand, the Spanish ensured they enrich their economy by colonizing Latin Americas and forcing the natives to work on farms to produce commodities to be exported and sold in Europe. According to Aram (2012), this process allowed the Spanish to participate in the Columbian exchange which involved exporting goods to other sections of the globe such as Africa, Europe, and Americas. At the same time, the African slaves were being brought in to work on their farms. This exchange helped the Spanish empire to produce and export more goods, and in the process, they were able to make more profits. Basically, by capturing more slaves from Africa and controlling trade the Spanish and the Ottomans were able to build a strong economy (Aram, 2012).

Unlike the Spanish, the Ottomans were very tolerant of different religions. The Spanish conquered more lands, converting the natives to Christians in the process. They were very strict with their religion and whoever refused to convert would be killed. The Ottomans promoted their religion, Islam, and they were very tolerant of people of different religious views. They even created millets; this was associations of people with the same religious view. However, the tax was imposed on the people of different religious views within the Ottoman Empire. The Spanish and the Ottomans didnt oppose each other. Instead, each of the empires sought to use their different approaches to conquering other lands without competing. Religion was a process in which the Spanish and the Ottomans used to build their empires socially. According to Quataert (2011) the Spanish made Christianity as a social norm, and no other religions were accepted. They enforced Christian beliefs both in their conquered territories and on the Spanish mainland. The Ottomans created harmony in their empire building process by creating the religiously tolerant setting. This allowed people from different religions within the Ottoman Empire building to feel respected and safe, in the process it created a sense of peace and unity through accepting differences. Whereas, both the Ottomans and the Spanish used religion to bring social unity, the Spanish empire used stringent policies and force while the Ottomans used acceptance and tolerance (Quataert, 2011).

Based on Fritschy (2014) findings, the Ottomans and the Spanish political processes for empire building were similar. Despite the fact that the Ottomans were Muslim, and the Spanish were Christian, they both had a state recognized religion that was overseen by the government. The Spanish were ruled by the Christian monarchy which implemented a convert or die mentality. The main objective of the Spanish was to convert all people who had different religious views to Christianity or force them to depart the country. The Ottomans had a complete Islamic government made up of the Janissary-class. Ottoman leaders were responsible for training young boys in Islamic doctrine so that they could grow to be political leaders in future. Both of these empires used religion to create a strong and powerful government (Fritschy, 2014).

The Ottomans and the Spanish had diverse techniques regarding their economic approaches for empire building. According to Atcil (2010) the Ottomans made more profits from the merchant traders who visited their empire. They also came up with structures along the trade routes such as stop over spots, and they tax those who used their services. This allowed them to create a consistent source of income. The Spanish, on the other hand, made slaves of native people and exploited the new lands resources. Spain benefited enormously from these resources, and this contributed to more expansion of their territories. The bottom line is the Ottomans decided to build their empire through entrepreneurship while the Spanish chose to build their empire by exploitation and force (Atcil, 2010).

These empires were ruthless and wealthy. The Spanish relied on imports from their distant territories across the Atlantic. They imported huge quantities of food and silver to sustain their economy. Moreover, their leadership was based on a monarchy with few nobles under him. They completely opposed other religions, and this was evident when they fought Moors in Spain to transform it completely to be Christian. The Ottoman Empire was a land-based empire, and it covered most of the Middle East all the way to the Eastern Europe. Their prosperity was based on conquering new worlds and exploiting them for their benefit. Also, they were not open to too many external ideologies, and they were led by a religious leader called Sultan. Instead of killing those people with different religious views they made them join military or become janissaries. Socially, politically, and economically the Spanish and the Ottoman Empire were similar in several ways. They had similar governing systems but also different sets of beliefs and policies. The Spanish Empire dominated the sea and the overseas while the Ottoman Empire dominated the land.


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