The Ottomans: Europe’s Muslim Emperors

The Ottomans


1 hour

Monday 14 November at 9.30am EST/ NZ

This program presented by journalist and writer Rageh Omaar is the first in a two part series. Episode 1 deals with the rise of the Ottomans, their expansion into Europe and their eventual domination of the Islamic world.

Omaar provides the major narrative but is supported by commentary from a number of experts on Islamic culture and History. There is description and discussion of significant religious themes throughout. On the whole the program is very well balanced and provides interesting comparisons and conclusions that avoid anachronism and presentist perspectives.

This program would quickly put the Ottomans into a world context and could be used with younger students as part of an overview of the Middle Ages. It would also be very useful for older students studying the Middle Ages as well because it would be an ideal springboard for exploration of religious differences and Islamic imperialism.

Dr Denis Mootz


Discussion throughout of religious beliefs.


Stop the video programs at the end of each section.
Allow students to share and discuss answers to the questions below.


Note the location of Istanbul.
To whom are the Ottomans compared?
Note the longevity of the “dynasty” of Ottoman Sultans.
Note the extent of the Ottoman Empire.

Part 1.

When did the Ottomans first “emerge”? From where?
Note the origins of the Ottomans. Result?
How were the Ottomans introduced to Islam? Result?
Who were the Ottomans “rivals”? Implications? Result?
Note the rise of the Osmanli in1299. Result?
Note the founding “myth” of the Osmanli. Implications? Result?
Note details of the Ottoman’s “neighbours”. Implications?
Note details of the Byzantine Empire.
Note details of Constantinople. Implications?
Why were the Byzantines in “decline”? Result?
How did Osman “make his name” in 1301? Result?
What was the “killer” element of the Ottoman forces?
How is Osman regarded in modern Turkey? Result?
How did Osman’s son Orhan “make his mark” in 1326? Result?
What evidence suggests that the Ottoman were “no longer nomads”? Implications?
How did the Byzantines respond to the rise of Orhan? Result?
Where did the Ottomans expand? Result?
Why was the West “the future”? Result?
What was the significance of the capture of Edirne? Result?
Note the expansion of the Ottomans into Europe. Result?
Note details of Jenidze Vardar (Janica). Implications?
Note the comments on the western view of the Ottomans. Implications?
Note the view of the Mayor of modern Janica. Implications?
Note details of the ancient haman in Janica. Implications?

Part 2.

What was the “biggest prize yet” for the Ottomans? Result?
Note the significance of Constantinople in 1453. Implications? Result?
Why was an Islamic assault on Constantinople “symbolic”? Result?
How had Constantinople survived for so long?
Note the events of 1204. Result?
Note how Sultan Mehmed 11 organised the capture of Constantinople. Result?
Note details of the latest technology available to the Ottomans. Result?
What were the implications of the “Conquest” of Constantinople?
What were the implications of the “Fall” of Constantinople?
Note how Mehmed 11 made Constantinople a “world class” city. Result?
Why did Jews and Christians move from Europe to Constantinople?
What was Mehmed 11’s “model”? Result? Implications?
How did Mehmed 11 make Islam’s victory over Christianity clear to all?
Note details of Hagia Sophia. Significance?
How was Hagia Sophia converted to a mosque? Implications? Result?

Part 3.

Note details of the Bosnian city of Sarajevo.
How was growth encouraged in the city? Result? Implications?
How was Ottoman authority and the supremacy of Islam acknowledged by non-Muslims?
Why weren’t minorities “persecuted”? Implications? Result?
Note the comments on the relative “tolerance” of the Ottoman Empire. Implications?
How did the people of the Balkans respond to Ottoman rule? Result?
How do the people of the Balkans remember this period? Implications?
Note details of the “Devsirme”. Result? Implications?
Why did some Christians want their sons to be “collected”?
Why did other Christians “deeply” resent this practice?
Why were young Christian girls taken to Topkapi Palace to be “wives”? Result? Implications?
What was the harem? Implications? Result?
How were threats to the Sultan’s authority dealt with?
How was succession worked out at the death of a Sultan? Result? Implications?
Note how Mehmed 11 avoided a conflict with his brother. Implications? Result?
Note how Europe dealt with similar succession problems in the 15th and 16th century.

Part 4.
Where did opposition to the Ottomans arise?
Note details of Selim 1 “the Grim”.
What great “taboo” did Selim break? Result? Implications?
Note details of the Safavid Muslims from Iran.
What was the source of the “difference” between these Islamic states?
How do the beliefs of Sunnism and Shi’ism differ?
When did this difference become a problem? Result?
How did Selim 1 “crush” this threat to his power? Result?
How was the problem of fighting a fellow Muslim state overcome? Result? Implications?
Note events in 1514. Result? Implications?
What ultimate Muslim “authority” did the Ottomans now claim? Result?
Note details of the Mamluk rulers of Egypt and Syria.
What was the “mark” of their special status in the Islamic world?
Note the comment on Ottoman desire for “Empire”. Implications?
How was the attack on the Mamluks justified?
Note the difference between the two armies in action. Result?
Note the events of 1517. Result? Implications?
How was the Ottoman Empire transformed?
What “leadership” came with this victory? Implications?


Useful, interesting, challenging, materials can be found at the websites below.
These sites are not recommended as definitive sources.
They need to be read critically and evaluated before being used for note making.
The evidence collected here should supplement and complement the notes made during the video program. Both should be used in the notemaking exercise that follows.

Ottoman Turks:

Ottoman Empire:

Osman Bey:


Orhan Ghazi:

Expansion in Europe:

Mehmed 11:




Topkapi Palace:ı_Palace






This is the collation stage of the activity.
Encourage students to compose the suggested summaries and to organise the field of information and begin to explore its context.
This activity could be done in teams, groups, or by individuals, or as a class with teacher direction.

1. Draw up a timeline / chronological chart of the events described and discussed in this program.

2. Note details of the origins of the Ottomans.

3. Note details of the Ottoman Empire.

4. Note details of the reign of Mehmed 11.

5. Note details of the problems of succession.

6. Note details of Ottoman incursions into Europe.

7. Note details of the Millet and Devsirme.

8. Note details of the Safavids.

9. Note details of the Mamluks.

10. Note details of the conquests of Selim 1.


Address and discuss the key issues and questions that have been raised by the video at this stage.
Some are suggested below. Students will probably raise others.

1. How harsh was Ottoman rule?

2. Why did the Ottomans break Muslim tradition and go to war against their fellow Muslims in Persia and Egypt?


It is necessary always to address questions of reliability and validity of the perspectives, evidence and sources presented in the documentary and other sources. These need to be considered, tested and researched. Some are suggested below. Students will probably raise others.

1. How are the Ottomans portrayed in the history of the Balkans?

2. To what extent were the Ottoman attacks on the Safavids and the Mamluks acts of self-defense?


Use the key issues and inquiry questions as topics for debate, essay writing, reports, historical recount and explanation.

Be imaginative. A report, or debate notes, could be a digital “essay” of slides and text…or any other IT application available.

1. Write a REPORT on the Caliphate of Selim1.

2. Write a REPORT on the impact of the Ottomans in Europe.

3. What evidence supports the proposition that Ottoman rule was “enlightened”?

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