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C O U R S E 
The Emergence of the Modern Middle East
Asher Susser, Tel Aviv University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Napoleon in Egypt: The Beginning of the Middle Eastern Modern Age
Notes taken on April 19, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
it is customary in the writing of Middle East history to start the modern era with Napoleon invading Egypt in 1798
this issued in a long period of rapid and radical change
but there is an assumption that the beginning Middle East history with Napoleon's invasion of Egypt
that the modern era was created through European influence and supremacy on an era that is in decline and stagnant
Benedetto Croce: history is always writing about contemporary history
all history is written from the point of view of the present and as the present changes all the time, with the changes of the present, we have a changing view of the past, and our ideas about the past and the way we write about the past, change all the time
thesis of decline
since mid-16th century, the Ottoman Empire was in a 350-year linear decline
the empire did not expand after Suleiman
the empire was in constant retreat in terms of territory ever since the first defeat at Vienna in 1529
the empire weakened over the centuries in comparison to Northern and Western Europe
but far less in comparison to Southern Europe and Russia
the second defeat at Vienna in 1683 ushered in a second wave of territorial contraction
however, some defeats dealt to the Russians in 1711 in Moldova
Middle East as stagnant society
the "sick man of Europe"
however, continued to enjoy unquestioned Islamic legitimacy
even when rebellions brought down the ruling Sultan, the legitimacy of the empire remained intact
this remained true until the rise of ideas of nationalism in the last 19th and early 20th centuries
resurrected only by Western enlightenment
difficulties faced by the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century
territorial losses as exemplified by the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt
Nationalist uprisings in the Balkans
e.g. the Greeks, the Serbs, the Bulgarians who gradually throughout the 19th century broke away from the Ottoman Empire
Western advance and advantage
progress of science and technology was clearly superior than that in the Ottoman Empire
but in 1878, the Ottoman Empire was still large, from Yemen to Libya to Turkey
many rebellions were a sign of weakness
Ottoman Empire in the 17th century
growing decentralization
rising social classes
some argue this was an indication of a decline of the empire
some argue that this was not a sign of decline
to say that Napoleon is the beginning of the Modern Era in the Middle East is too simplistic
the European input added great momentum to a process that had already begun
some even say that Napoleon interrupted a local process of modernization
no one has offered an alternative periodization
the way to express the Middle East modern era now is:
the Napoleonic phase was a key to a new period of rapid change, but one that added a quantum leap forward to an already ongoing process
the colonial interaction, with all its obvious negatives, created an unprecedented measure of rapid change in economics, politics, and in the sphere of ideas and the erosion of tradition
"ideas are more dangerous than occupation since ideas will erode beliefs and traditions, while occupation will come and go"