Another perspective on the Ottomans

David Schanoes dmsch at
Tue Jan 14 20:03:03 MST 2003

First, my knowledge of the Ottoman Empire is limited to two studies.  So
what I offer is an area of interest, not a position.  I'm not looking to
battle on this issue, although I promise to throw some blood into the water
shortly, on other issues.

The slave trade marks the critical point, the critical moment in the
transition from feudal to capital organization of the social order and the
economies of Europe.  And  Europe stumbles upons the "market" for the slave
trade, the Antilles, almost by accident, in the search for a sea route and a
sea passage for the.... spice trade.  From my limited readings, part of the
reason for the search for the sea passage was to bypass the Ottoman Empire.
Now the "price" of this sea route was extreme.  For example-- (An adventure
in the Philippines, before Subic Bay and Olangapo):

 In March 1521, Magellan landed his fleet of five ships on the island of
Samar.  He planted a cross, baptized a thousand or so of the inhabitants,
and named the islands the Archipelago of San Lazaro.  The great
circumnavigator, flag officer of Spain's ecclisiastic mercantilism,  was
killed the next month by warriors from the island of Mactan.  Twenty seven
more Spanish were killed by Cebu warriors in a dispute over women.
 In 1522 only one ship and 18 crew members made it back to Spain.  The one
returning ship carried 26 tons of cloves,  the sale of which returned a
profit on the cost of the voyage of more than 100 percent.  Nine Spanish
bodies were spent for each ton of cloves.

So....we can turn to the spice trade as the engine of progress, and the
engine of progress becoming slavery as the Antilles were cultivated for the
extraction of gold and pearls and then the production of sugar when no
spices were found.

  To my understanding, the spice markets in the Ottoman empire were
consistently robust.  I am not suggesting that the presence of spices alone
accounts for the eclipse of the Ottoman Empire, but is it possible that  the
different modes employed for the supplying of spice indicate  fundamentally
different organizations of agriculture, fundamentally different
organizations of the relations between city and countryside that determined
the "shift" to Europe?

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