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From kanun-ı kadim (ancient law) to umumun kuvveti (force of people): historical context of the Ottoman constitutionalism

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This paper attempts to examine the prevailing scholarly view on the Young Ottoman and the Young Turk movements, which postulates that the concept of constitutionalism was solely and directly based on the western model, imported by the constitutionalist movements to the Ottoman Empire. As a child of the ‘modernization theory’, this approach mostly concentrates on European impact in an isolated manner, thus overlooking not only the manifold sources of the Ottoman constitutionalism, but also the means of legitimation that the Young Ottomans and the Young Turks cultivated. In view of this, I seek to shed light on the historical context of the Ottoman constitutionalism, by pointing out how the Young Ottomans and the Young Turks perceived the power struggles in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and built continuity between themselves and the political position that aimed to restrict the royal prerogative before the nineteenth century.
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Keywords: Ahmed Rıza; Namık Kemal; Ottoman constitutionalism; The Young Ottomans; the Young Turk movement; Şinasi

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of History, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey

Publication date: January 2, 2016

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