Middle East & Persia from 1200-present

Abbasid Caliphate: 750 - 1258

Key Features:

  • Capital at Baghdad

  • Allowed non-Arabs to hold government positions

    • Shows they were religiously tolerant

  • Developed rockets using gunpowder from China

    • Used these rockets to attack foreign ships

  • Developed paper, wrote many books

  • Taken over by Seljuq Turks for last couple hundred years

  • Tried to spread Islam throughout Afro-Eurasia

    • Sufi missionaries were successful due to their emotional appeal to Islam

    • Descendants established Delhi Sultanate in India

  • Fell as Mongols sieged Baghdad in 1258


Abbasid Achievements in Trade & Economics

Letters of Credit

The Islamic traders established banks that issued letters of credit. Merchants could deposit money in a bank in their hometown and receive it at a bank in their destination to avoid the risk of robbery. 

Connections to other Empires

The Abbasid Caliphate had overland and maritime connections to many other empires including Mali, Delhi Sultanate, Europe, Mongols, China, and East Africa. 


Camels could hold heavy loads and survive for 10 days in the hot weather of the Arabian & Sahara deserts without water. This allowed Islamic merchants to travel really far efficiently. 

Maritime Technology

Islamic traders acquired many maritime technological innovations, such as the magnetic compass, the lateen (triangular) sail, the astrolabe, and the sternpost rudder. 


Caravanserai were roadside inns in which merchants could rest for the night. The establishment of caravanserai allowed merchants to travel long distances as they had a place to stay for the night. 

Joint Liability

Multiple merchants would invest in multiple cargoes so that if one cargo fails to earn profits (robbery, shipwreck, etc.), all merchants share the losses instead of one merchant taking on all of the losses. 

House of Wisdom

  • Established in 8th century

  • Survived until Mongol Siege of Baghdad in 1258

  • Home to important works in Islamic theology, science, literature, medicine, astronomy, math, etc.

  • Most famously housed al-Khwarizmi, the father of Algebra


Ilkhanate of Persia: 1260 - 1335

Key Features:

  • Founded by Khubilai Khan's brother, Hulagu Khan

  • Hulagu led campaigns in Persia, sieged Baghdad in 1258, killed more than 200,000 Persians

    • Even destroyed Persian qanat irrigation system​

  • Later conquered entire Persia and Syria, failed to conquer Egypt

  • Mongols were excellent warriors but not administrators → hired Persians to serve as provincial ministers in government

  • Tolerated all religions until Ilkhan Ghazan converted to Islam in 1295 → Massacres of Christians & Jews afterward

  • Fell due to inflation and overspending of treasury

  • In 1383, Tamerlane took over & established the Timurid dynasty in Persia


Ottoman Empire: 1289 - 1923

  • Founded by Osman Bey in 1289

  • Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453, renamed it Istanbul, became capital of Ottoman Empire

    • Replaced churches with mosques, turned Hagia Sophia into a mosque​

  • Through program called devshirme, they enslaved Christian boys & turned them into administrators or warriors

    • The warriors were known as janissaries

  • Suleiman I (Suleiman the Magnificent) took over later, built magnificent mosques, promoted trade, expanded territory

    • Defeated Habsburgs at Vienna in 1529​

  • Women had low status, but royal women sometimes had high status

  • Believed in Sunni Islam

    • Fought against Safavids, who believed in Shia Islam​

    • Defeated Safavids at Battle of Chaldiran (1514)

  • Built magnificent mosques & buildings to legitimize their rule

  • Had some relations with Europeans

    • Allied with English & French against Spanish​

    • Relied on European shipments for modern military technology, causing Ottoman military to fall behind & decline


Safavid Empire: 1501 - 1736

  • Founded by Shah Ismail in 1501​

  • Believed in Shi'a Islam

    • Specific religion was twelver shiism​

    • Fought with Ottomans (Sunni Muslims), lost against them at Battle of Chaldiran (1514)

      • While Safavids lost, Ottomans didn't have the resources to fully take over Safavids

  • Shah Abbas expanded Safavid Empire, promoted trade

    • Moved capital from Tabriz to Isfahan​

    • Consolidated more power, gained more territory

    • Employed slaves to help run administration

  • Administration was largely central & absolute

    • Had a small bureaucracy

    • Employed military officers, known as qizilbash

      • Wore red pleats on their heads with 12 folds, signifying twelver Shiism

    • Built lots of monumental architecture

      • Tabriz & Isfahan had large open palaces, signifying the Shah's wide visibility​

  • British helped Safavids consolidate power

    • Supplied gunpowder, helped retake Hormuz from Portuguese​

    • Advised Shah Abbas


Ottoman Decline:

Declining Ottoman Authority

Muhammad Ali & Egyptian Independence

  • Muhammad Ali sought to strengthen Egypt in order to declare independence from Ottomans
    • Promoted industrialization, drafted peasants to serve in military
    • Got foreign loans to finance industrialization
    • Attempted to invade Syria & Anatolia but failed

Other Causes of Ottoman Decline

  • Ottoman military technology was lagging behind
    • Janissaries mounted coups on the government but didn't care about military technology
  • Ottomans lost a lot of territory
    • Lost Egypt & parts of North Africa
    • Lost Balkans & Caucasus
  • Economy Declined
    • Ottoman artisans couldn't compete with cheap European industrial goods
    • Europeans found direct sea routes to Asia & didn't need Ottoman intermediaries
    • Ottomans also were forced to give concessions to foreign merchants​

Attempted Reform Movements

Sultan Selim III initiated reforms. Established European-style army with modern weapons 

Many Muslims hated it. Many minority leaders also hated it. Bureaucracy hated it as they wanted more power

Some dissidents put Abdul Hamid II in charge (1876). Forced him to sign constitution, which he later repealed. Applied Tanzimat reforms,  Many subjects went in exile to learn about constitutional government

Janissaries revolted as they hated modern army

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In 1826, Sultan Mahmud II built European-style army, science & engineering schools, government ministries. Removed land grants for Janissaries & concentrated power for himself

Ottomans started tanzimat ("reorganization"): Made civil law code based on Enlightenment, had public trials, removed Muslim laws, free compulsory education

Still, some Janissaries revolted & Ottoman army still wasn't strong enough

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Young Turk party (founded 1889), a group of exiled Ottomans in Paris, wanted freedom for all (including women). Dethroned Abdul Hamid II in 1908, forced him to sign Constitution of 1876, put Mehmed V Rashid in power. Ottomans declined as many remote regions resisted rule

Ottomans in World War 1

Battle of Gallipoli (1915-1916)

Britain wanted to take over Ottoman-controlled Dardanelles strait to get easy access to Russia

Britain lost miserably after attacking Ottomans at Dardanelles

Britain tried again, this time attacked Gallipoli Peninsula. Used troops from British colonies

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Britain lost miserably. Led to weakened control over British colonies

Armenian Massacres

  • Armenians were last major non-Muslim group in Ottoman Empire
    • Armenians often complained about discrimination from local Ottoman princes
  • Ottomans believed Armenians would eventually declare independence, so they killed millions of Armenians

    • Known as Armenian genocide

    • Ottomans believed it to be a communal argument between Muslims & Christians


Losses of Ottoman Empire

  • Defended against British at Dardanelles & Gallipoli
  • Lost Caucasus to Russians

  • Lost Arab states to British
    • British allied with Arab states against Ottomans to declare independence


Ataturk & Creation of Turkey

  • Treaty of Lausanne (1923) recognized end of Ottoman Empire & creation of Turkey
  • Mustafa Kemal, war hero during WW1, led Turkish state
    • Known as Ataturk ("father of the Turks")
    • Established government control over industries, leading to economic prosperity
    • Replaced Muslim government with a secular government

Mandate System

  • France & Britain helped Arab States (Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon) gain independence from Ottomans if they help Allies defeat Ottomans in WW2
  • Allies won, but France & Britain believed newly independent Arab states couldn't govern themselves, so they established protectorates (mandates)
    • France protected Iraq & Palestine
    • Britain protected Lebanon & Syria
    • Intervened in their governmental affairs, helped them build their nations

Independence of Arab States

Arab Independence, Creation of Israel, Egyptian Nationalism

  • After WW2, Arab nations previously under mandate system got independence
    • Still had some imperial domination as Europeans controlled most oil reserves
  • Jews competed with Muslims for territory in Palestine
    • At the time, present-day Israel was part of Palestine
    • In 1917, British supported creation of Israel, but changed its mind when Palestinians revolted
    • After Holocaust, Jews still in Palestine (present-day Israel) revolted & wanted their own land
    • In 1947, Britain gave Palestine to the UN, which decided to divide it into a Jewish & Arab state
    • Jews & Arabs in Palestine fought, & Jews proclaimed Israel in 1948, while the Arabs proclaimed the rest of the land as Palestine
    • Jews & Arabs fought mostly for control in the Gaza strip
    • Both US & USSR supported Israel & hated European involvement in Arab oil fields
  • Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egyptian) believed in Arab nationalism & hated creation of Israel
    • Mounted coup on Egyptian government & took over in 1954
    • Believed in non-alignment, wanted alliances with both US & USSR
    • Wanted to end European influence in Africa, so he aided Algerian independence from France
    • Expelled British from Suez canal in 1956

Suez Canal Crisis

Gamal Abdel Nasser expelled British from Suez Canal in 1956. Used money from it to finance dam in Aswan

British, French, Israeli coalition attacked Egypt to retake Suez Canal

US disagreed with actions of Britain, France, Israel, forced them to withdraw. USSR also agreed with US

Revival of Islam in the Middle East:


  • Revival in Islamic belief & value in Arab lands
    • Reinstated sharia law
    • Despised US & Europe for secularization of government
    • Believed in jihad, the right to defend Islam from an unjust attack, sometimes violently

Iranian Revolution (1979)

US's CIA helped Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi gain power of Iran

US helped Pahlavi use Iran's oil fields to boost Iran's economy

Iranians, especially Shias, hated this secular-style government established by the US. They launched Iranian Revolution

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Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took power of Iran afterward (1979)

Iranians started keeping Americans. in Iran as hostages

Pahlavi fled to the US for help

Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)

Iraq sought to conquer Iran during its revolution. Saddam Hussein (Iraqi leader) built military, invaded Iran in 1980

Hussein sought to revive pan-Arab nationalism, invaded Iran because it was Persian, not Arab

Iranians counterattacked on Iraq, creating a UN-negotiated ceasefire in 1988