By Peter Mansfield
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Additional resources for The Ottoman Empire and its Successors
In practice-especially in the more outlying areas of the Empire-a large share of political power passed into the hands of the local elite of sheikhs, ulema and landowners, and this was accepted by the Sultan's government in Constantinople. The ruling groups in the various provinces as well as Turkey proper together constituted a real entity: the Ottoman governing class. This may have varied in composition from one part of the Empire to another-a Berber element in North Africa, Circassian in Egypt, Kurdish in Iraq-but it had certain common characteristics.
In Iraq there were about 170 schools of all grades with about 7400 elementary and 1200 secondary and high school pupils. 12 These numbers may appear miserably inadequate, but it was to be some years before they were improved upon after the overthrow of Ottoman rule. Moreover, the Arabs soon became aware that 'While the Turks laid no claim to a superiority over the Arabs in civilisation, the Europeans did so with undisguised arrogance. ' 13 3 The End of Empire 1914-1920 WHEN war broke out in the summer of 1914 between the Allies (Britain, France and Russia) and the Central Powers (Germany and Austro-Hungary) it was by no means a foregone conclusion that Turkey would side with the latter.
There was no question of Abdul Hamid's authority as the Sultan-Caliph resting on his piety alone. Apart from the divines at his court he promoted a number of Arab administrators such as Izzat Pasha al-Abd, while part of his personal bodyguard consisted of picked Arab recruits. Through a spider's web of espionage and intrigue radiating from Constantinople he aimed to detect and deal with any subversive movement in the Arab provinces. He had a number of picked emissaries scouring the Arab world in the guise of preachers whose real mission was to sow or fan discord between feudal chiefs and the heads of the larger nomadic confederations.