Abdülhamid II

Abdülhamid II
born Sept. 21, 1842, Constantinople
died Feb. 10, 1918, Constantinople

Sultan (1876–1909) of the Ottoman Empire under whose rule the Tanzimat reform movement reached its climax.

After initially promoting the first Ottoman constitution (primarily to ward off foreign intervention), he suspended it 14 months later and ruled thereafter as a despot. He used Pan-Islamism to rally Muslim opinion outside his empire; the Hejaz Railway was built with foreign contributions. Discontent with his absolutist rule and resentment over European intervention in the Balkans resulted in his overthrow by the Young Turks in 1908. See also Mustafa Kemal Atatürk; Enver Pasha; Midhat Pasha.

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▪ Ottoman sultan

born Sept. 21, 1842, Constantinople [now Istanbul, Turkey]
died Feb. 10, 1918, Constantinople

      Ottoman sultan from 1876 to 1909, under whose autocratic rule the reform movement of Tanzimat (Reorganization) reached its climax and who adopted a policy of pan-Islāmism in opposition to Western intervention in Ottoman affairs.

      A son of Sultan Abdülmecid I, he came to the throne at the deposition of his mentally deranged brother, Murad V, on Aug. 31, 1876. He promulgated the first Ottoman constitution on Dec. 23, 1876, primarily to ward off foreign intervention at a time when the Turks' savage suppression of the Bulgarian uprising (May 1876) and Ottoman successes in Serbia and Montenegro had aroused the indignation of Western powers and Russia. After a disastrous war with Russia (1877), Abdülhamid was convinced that little help could be expected from the Western powers without their intrusion into Ottoman affairs. He dismissed the Parliament, which had met in March 1877, and suspended the constitution in February 1878. Thenceforth for 40 years he ruled from his seclusion at Yıldız Palace (in Constantinople), assisted by a system of secret police, an expanded telegraph network, and severe censorship.

      After the French occupation of Tunisia (1881) and assumption of power by the British in Egypt (1882), Abdülhamid turned for support to the Germans. In return, concessions were made to Germany, culminating in permission (1899) to build the Baghdad Railway. Eventually, the suppression of the Armenian revolt (1894) and the turmoil in Crete, which led to the Greco-Turkish War of 1897, once more resulted in European intervention.

      Abdülhamid used pan-Islāmism to solidify his internal absolutist rule and to rally Muslim opinion outside the empire, thus creating difficulties for European imperial powers in their Muslim colonies. The Hejaz Railway, financed by Muslim contributions from all over the world, was a concrete expression of his policy.

      Internally, the most far-reaching of his reforms were in education; 18 professional schools were established; Darülfünun, later known as the University of Istanbul, was founded (1900); and a network of secondary, primary, and military schools was extended throughout the empire. Also, the Ministry of Justice was reorganized, and railway and telegraph systems were developed.

      Discontent with Abdülhamid's despotic rule and resentment against European intervention in the Balkans, however, led to the military revolution of the Young Turks in 1908. After a short-lived reactionary uprising (April 1909), Abdülhamid was deposed, and his brother was proclaimed sultan as Mehmed V.

Additional Reading
Studies of Abdülhamid include Edwin Pears, Life of Abdul Hamid (1917, reprinted 1973); and Joan Haslip, The Sultan: The Life of Abdul Hamid (1958, reprinted 1973).

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Universalium. 2010.

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