Compare the reasons for the declines of the Mughal, Safavid and Ottoman Empires the eighteenth century. Why did they decline while Europe extended its "gunpowder" empires?
Decline of Mughal, Safavid, and Ottoman Empires
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The Safavid Empire declined and eventually collapsed primarily because of incursions from an increasingly strong Russia (at that point known as Muscovy) and the Mughal Empire. A secondary problem was the growing influence of Western European traders, primarily The Dutch East India Company which by military means shut off the Empire's trade in the Indian Ocean. Similar incursions by the British and French East India companies added to the decline in revenues, and the Empire entered a state of permanent decline in 1666. Internal revolts added the coup de grace, and the Empire ended in 1760 with the deposition of Ismail III.
The Mughal Empire collapsed largely because of internal problems. Lavish lifestyles of the Emperor and internal corruption left the government unable to pay government officials and military officers. Military leaders acted on their own to negotiate deals with local officials, and the Empire was doomed. It was subject to numerous attacks by Hindu forces who had long opposed the Mughals. The final blow came in the mid-nineteenth century when the British overthrew the last Emperor whose Empire had been reduced to the city of Delhi.
The Ottoman Empire's days were numbered when European traders began sailing directly to China and the far East thereby bypassing the markets of Constantinople, an important source of income for the Empire. The government relied increasingly on loans to pay its expenses and was unable to modernize its military. It also was subject to internal attacks, primarily from Russia, and joined Britain and France in the Crimean War to prevent Russia from capturing Constantinople. A number of areas under Ottoman control assumed autonomy which the government was unable to stop. Additionally, European governments exercised increasing control within the Empire at the same time that nationalist feelings were spreading among the various ethnic groups. By the outbreak of World War I, the Empire was commonly known as the "sick old man of Europe." Although it continued to exist in a substantially weakened form, it was eventually abolished by the Treaty of Versailles of 1919.
European nations were able to extend their influence at the same time as these Empires were in decline because they had developed superior weapons and technology. These had originally been developed for use in intra-European wars; however with the expansion of European influence into other areas, European weaponry proved a decisive factor. Interestingly, at one point Ottoman forces had refused to use firearms as they were considered "western," and therefore un-Islamic. Thus superior technlogy, both in weapons and trade, gave Western Europe the edge.
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