4. The Ottoman Empire Tried to Reform, But Couldn’t
By the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire had entered a period of terminal decline. The days of dynamic sultans and military prowess were long gone. Mediocre and inept rulers succeeded each other, while military defeats and a steady shrinking of Ottoman territory became the norm. What had once been a vibrant state was reduced to a backward realm that came to be known as “The Sick Man of Europe”. It owed its continued existence not to its own abilities, but to the inability of European powers to agree on how to divide it amongst themselves.
In the mid-nineteenth century, structural reforms were attempted, with the hope of liberalizing and modernizing the crumbling Ottoman Empire. They foundered on the rocks of religious and social conservatism, inertia, and entrenched corruption that resisted all efforts at cleaning up the system. So the Ottomans staggered on, going from setback to setback, until World War I, when they joined the wrong side, and effectively signed the empire’s death warrant.