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Transport Technologies and Pan-Ideologies: Late Ottoman Era Experience of Globalisation (1870-1908)
By the Ottoman-Russian war that ended with the 1774 Kucuk Kaynarca Treaty, the Russian and Ottoman Empires claimed to be the guardian of the religious groups beyond their borders. While Russia used pan-Slavist claims, the Ottoman Sultan claimed Caliphate representing Muslims in Crimea, Tatarstan and beyond. The spread of pan-Islamist sentiments from the 1880s onwards has been explained in the scholarship as a response to increasing penetration of the European powers. However, this approach elaborates only one aspect of the spread of pan-Islamism. By approaching the pan-ideologies of the late nineteenth century as a backlash against globalisation, this paper questions the role of transport technologies in generating transnational collective identities. It argues that political and economic grievances about globalisation generated proto-nationalist formations and transnational ideologies in both industrialised and less industrialised economies in Europe and Ottoman territories. Power politics in Europe shaped German and Italian unifications and inspired transnational movements such as pan-Latinism to identify the superiority of France. Reactions to the imperialism of liberal trade treaties in the states producing mainly raw material generated proto—nationalist and pan- ideologies. The pan-Turkish, pan-Arabic and Pan-Islamist ideologies began to take shape and disseminate. Having concerns about maintaining its territorial integrity, the Ottoman government signed new trade treaties with Western European powers while investing in infrastructure to increase security. This defensive developmentalism included turning some cities, such as Beirut, into provincial capitals, building roads and railway networks, abolishing the internal tariff barriers, and imposing periodic bans on importing and exporting goods, such as motorised cycles and cars. The backlash against globalisation due to security concerns, however, was twofold. To avert the potential tribal rebellion in the Arab provinces besides settlement projects, railways extended central state power to the interior. Hijaz Railways could avert, if not delay, a potential tribal unification. Another strategy was positioning Ottoman Istanbul as the leading authority for Muslims across the globe by inculcating pan-Islamist sentiments among Muslims across the globe, calling them to support and sponsor the railway. On the other hand, roads built connecting Samsun port into the interior and Beirut to Damascus generated alternative transport hubs and identities. Asking if the era of new transport technologies inspired the imagining of new collective identities during the first wave of industrial globalisation, this paper offers a novel perspective on the global history of overland transportation by examining the Ottoman experience.
Geographic Area
Ottoman Empire
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