Author(s): Maria Pia PEDANI

The territorial extent of the Ottoman Empire did not allow the central government to control all the country in the same way. To understand the kind of relations established between the Ottoman Empire and its vassal states scholars took into consideration also peace treaties (sulhnâme) and how these agreements changed in the course of time. The most ancient documents were capitulations (ahdnâme) with mutual oaths, derived from the idea of truce (hudna), such as those made with sovereign countries which bordered on the Empire. Little by little they changed and became imperial decrees (berat), which mean that the sultan was the lord and the others subordinate powers. In the Middle Ages bilateral agreements were used to make peace with European countries too, but, since the end of the 16th c., sultans began to issue berats to grant commercial facilities to distant countries, such as France or England. This meant that, at that time, they felt themselves superior to other rulers. On the contrary, in the 18th and 19th centuries, European countries became stronger and they succeeded in compelling the Ottoman Empire to issue capitulations, in the form of berat, on their behalf. The article hence deals with the Ottoman’s imperial authority up on the vassal states due to the historical evidences of sovereignty.


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