The Tanzimat, according to Cleveland (2009), is the period from 1839 to 1876 in Ottoman history where we can witness many reforms which had happened in the empire.
According to Cleveland (2009), the “period from 1839 to 1876 is known in Ottoman history as the Tanzimat (literally, reorganization) and marks the most intensive phase of nineteenth century Ottoman reformist activity.” (82) The Tanzimat reforms have been implemented by the “Europeanized Ottomans bureaucrats called the French knowers.” (82) The French knowers have been established by Mahmud II and they are known under the names of Rashid Pasha, Ali Pasha, and Fuad Pasha. Rashid pasha and his two disciples have transformed the administrative, governmental, and economic structure of the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Empire has indeed changed during the Tanzimat period. First of all, Rashid Pasha had issued a decree called Hatt i-Sharif of Gulhane (1839) which had brought the following administrative reforms: (1) tax farming, (2) the standardization of military conscription, and (3) the elimination of corruption. Secondly, Ali and Fuad Pashas had been involved in the proclamation of a second decree called Hatt i-Humayan (1856).
This second decree had emphasized the principles of 1839 and it declared that all the Ottoman subjects had to do the military service and they all had equal chances for state jobs and school. According to Cleveland (2009), these two decrees had been promulgated in order to “secure the loyalty of the Christian subjects of the empire at a time of growing nationalist agitation in the European provinces.” (83) These two decrees were created by the Pashas in order to diminish the religious and cultural sovereignty of the Millets. According to Cleveland (2009), “each of the three major non-Muslim religions was granted millet status and placed under the direct authority of the leading church official.” (48) Therefore, these two decrees were created in order to foster the idea of a common Ottoman citizenship on all the subjects’ mind. By weakening the millets’ influence with all the new reforms, the Pashas wanted to install the idea of a common Ottoman citizenship. In addition, the Nationality Law had been created in 1869 in order to supplant the religious association with secular identity. Therefore, the two decrees and the Nationality Law were created in order to develop a common citizenship in people in spite of their different religions.
Furthermore, a Civil Service School had been created in 1859 and the Imperial Ottoman Lycée at Galatasaray had been opened in 1868. The Tanzimat was also a period of new legal codes. New penal and commercial codes were created in order to have for the courts (nizame) treat Muslims and non-Muslims cases.
The Tanzimat was a period of many reforms which had completely moved the Ottoman system into a secular path. The Pashas wanted to create a Western style reforms within the Ottoman Empire by including a European influenced constitution and by weakening the Islamic institutions.
Cleveland, W. (2009). A history of the modern Middle East. Boulder, CO: Westview