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The Ottoman Empire Devshirme System for AP World History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Jan 2

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The Ottoman Empire Devshirme System is an illustrative example in the Empires: Administration topic of Unit 3 of AP World History. Read more about the Ottoman Empire Devshirme System below!



1558 Painting of Registering Christian Boys for Devshirme
1558 Painting of Registering Christian Boys for Devshirme/public domain


The Ottoman Devshirme, meaning “collection” or “gathering” in Turkish, was a unique and distinctive system employed by the Ottoman Empire from the late 14th to the 17th century. Originating during the reign of Sultan Murad I, the Devshirme system served as a method for recruiting talented Christian boys from the empire’s Christian-populated regions to serve in various capacities within the Ottoman military, government, and administrative structures.


Recruitment Process

The process of Devshirme involved the periodic collection of young boys, usually between the ages of 8 and 18, from Christian families in the Balkans and Anatolia. These boys, known as “devshirme recruits” or “janissaries,” were chosen based on their intellectual potential, physical prowess, and character. The selection aimed to create a meritocratic system, free from hereditary ties, where individuals could rise through the ranks based on their abilities.


Conversion and Training

Upon entering the Devshirme system, recruits underwent a process of conversion to Islam, symbolizing their integration into Ottoman society. They received education, military training, and religious instruction, with an emphasis on loyalty to the Ottoman state and its ruler. The recruits were groomed to serve in various capacities, with a significant number joining the renowned Janissary infantry, while others entered administrative roles within the bureaucracy or the palace.


Military and Administrative Service

Devshirme recruits who became Janissaries formed the backbone of the Ottoman military, renowned for their discipline, loyalty, and effectiveness in battle. Janissaries played a crucial role in expanding and maintaining the empire’s territorial reach. Those who pursued administrative careers often became influential figures within the Ottoman government, serving as governors, viziers, and other high-ranking officials.


Impact and Legacy

While the Devshirme system provided a means for social mobility and contributed to the Ottoman Empire’s military and administrative success, it also sparked debates about its ethical implications. Critics argued that the forcible recruitment of Christian children raised moral concerns, while proponents highlighted its role in creating a diverse and efficient ruling class.


Ultimately, the Ottoman Devshirme system left an indelible mark on the empire’s history, shaping its military prowess, administrative efficiency, and cultural diversity. The legacy of the Devshirme system extends beyond the Ottoman period, serving as a unique chapter in the history of statecraft and social organization in the early modern Islamic world.



Free Printable Reading Passage on the Ottoman Devshirme System


The Ottoman Devshirme System Free Reading Passage



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Empires: Administration

Unit 3: Land-Based Empires

AP World History



Ottoman Devshirme System

#APWorldHistory #DevshirmeSystem #OttomanEmpire

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Jan 2

0

0

0

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