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Near East

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Near East Collection

History Archive - Near East Collection

The Near East is a geographical term that roughly encompasses a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey (both Asian and European), and Egypt (which is mostly in North Africa). Despite having varying definitions within different academic circles, the term was originally applied to the maximum extent of the Ottoman Empire.

In about the middle of the 19th century Near East came into use to describe that part of the east closest to Europe. The term Far East appeared contemporaneously meaning Japan, China, Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam. Near East applied to what had been mainly known as the Levant, which was in the jurisdiction of the Ottoman Porte, or government. Those who used the term had little choice about its meaning. They could not set foot on most of the shores of the southern and central Mediterranean from the Gulf of Sidra to Albania without permits from the Ottoman Empire.

Some regions beyond the Ottoman Porte were included. One was North Africa west of Egypt. It was occupied by piratical kingdoms of the Barbary Coast, de facto-independent since the 18th century, formerly part of the empire at its apogee. Iran was included because it could not easily be reached except through the Ottoman Empire or neighboring Russia. In the 1890s the term tended to focus on the conflicts in the Balkan states and Armenia. The demise of "the sick man of Europe" left considerable confusion as to what was to be meant by "Near East". It is now generally used only in historical contexts, to describe the countries of Western Asia from the Mediterranean to (or including) Iran. There is, in short, no universally-understood fixed inventory of nations, languages or historical assets defined to be in it.

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At the beginning of the 19th century the Ottoman Empire included all of the Balkan Peninsula south to the southern edge of the Hungarian Plain, but by 1914 had lost all of it except Constantinople and Eastern Thrace to the rise of nationalist Balkan states, which saw the independence of Greece, Serbia, the Danubian Principalities and Bulgaria. Up until 1912, the Ottomans retained a band of territory including Albania, Macedonia and Southern Thrace, which were lost in the two Balkan Wars of 1912-13.

The Ottoman Empire, believed to be about to collapse, was portrayed in the press as the "sick man of Europe". The Balkan states, with the partial exception of Bosnia and Albania, were primarily Christian, as was the majority of Lebanon. Starting in 1894, the Ottomans struck at the Armenians on the explicit grounds that they were a non-Muslim people and as such were a potential threat to the Muslim empire within which they resided.

The Hamidian Massacres aroused the indignation of the entire Christian world. In the United States the now aging Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, leaped into the war of words and joined the Red Cross. Relations of minorities within the Ottoman Empire and the disposition of former Ottoman lands became known as the "Eastern Question", as the Ottomans were on the east of Europe.

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Available Books

Related Images

Image Name
The Military Costume of Turkey - Ladle Bearer (1818)
Journal of a Tour in the Levant Vol. 2 - Tombs in Cairo [II] (1820)
Views in the Ottoman Dominions - Mosque of Sultan Achmet (1810)
Voyage en Perse Vol. 1 - Califa (Eveque) nestorien (1825)
Views in the Ottoman Dominions - Eski-Estamboul (1810)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - Ayun Musa - The Wells of Moses - Wilderness of Tyh (1855)
Views in India, China, and on the Shores of the Red Sea - Akbars Tomb, Secundra (1835)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 5 & 6 - Front Elevation of the Great Temple of Aboo-Simbel (1855)
Under the Syrian Sun Vol. 2 - Back Cover (1907)
Journal of a Tour in the Levant Vol. 2 - Convent of Mount Sinai (1820)
Byzantine Architecture - Castle of Edessa (1864)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 1 & 2 - Chapel of St. Helena - Crypt of the Holy Sepulchre (1855)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Cyrene Inscriptions [I] (1864)
Byzantine Architecture - Front Cover (1864)
The Dead Sea, a New Route to India Vol. 2 - Title Page (1855)
The Costume of Turkey - The Mufti, or Chief of Religion (1802)
Clouds in the East - A Cossack of the Line (1876)
A Pilgrimage to Egypt - British Troops Drilling Near the Great Pyramids (1897)
Palestine, Past and Present. Pictorial and Descriptive - The Dead Sea (1890)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 5 & 6 - The Silk-Mercers' Bazaar of El Gooreyeh, Cairo (1855)
The Costume of Turkey - Officers of the Grand Signior (1802)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - Scene on the Quay of Suez (1855)
A Description of some Ancient Monuments in Lydia and Phyrgia - Doric Temple Excavated in the Rock, Dogan-Lu (1842)
Voyage a l'Oasis de Syouah - Vue d'un Edifice Antique aupres de Kamyseh (1823)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 5 & 6 - Interior of the Mosque of the Sultan El Ghoree (1855)
Scenes in the East - Front Cover (1870)
Voyage en Perse Vol. 1 - Persan fumant la Cailliane (1825)
Voyage Pittoresque a Travers l'Isthme de Suez - Chalet du Vice-Roi (1870)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - General View of One of the Hills in the Northern Necropolis of Cyrene (1864)
The Oriental Album - Turkish and Armenian Ladies (abroad) (1862)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - Pompey's Pillar, Alexandria (1855)
Scenes in the East - Gaza, the Old Town (1870)
Byzantine Architecture - The Church of St. Sophia at Trebizond - Fresco in the Apse (1864)
Scenes in the East - Jaffa (1870)
Views in the Ottoman Empire - A Grotto cut in the Rock near Lindo, in Rhodes (1803)
Out-of-Doors in the Holy Land - A Street in Bethlehem (1908)
Byzantine Architecture - Eski Djouma, Thessalonica - Capitals (1864)
Voyage a l'Oasis de Syouah - Vue des Ruines d'un Temple Appele Qasr Gacham (1823)
Voyage en Perse Vol. 2 - Curde de la plaine, au grand galop (1825)
Views in the Ottoman Dominions - View near Bucharest (1810)
The Oriental Album - Albanian Guard (1862)
Views in India, China, and on the Shores of the Red Sea - Thubare, A Small Harbour of the Arabian Coast, Upper Part of the Red Sea (1835)
Voyage a Athenes et a Constantinopole - Grec d'Hydra (1825)
Recueil de Cent Estampes Representant Differentes Nations du Levant - Princesse de Valaquie (1714)
Views in India, China, and on the Shores of the Red Sea - Singham Mahal Torway, Bejapore (1835)
Palestine Illustrated - Ruins of Tiberias (1888)
Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia, and Egypt Vol. 3 - Ground Plan of Ruins near Dioclesian's Column (1809)
The Costume of Turkey - Title Page [English] (1802)
Voyage des Souverains du Canal du Suez - L'Escadre en Rade de Suez (1870)
Byzantine Architecture - The Church of St. Sophia at Trebizond - Ground Plan (1864)
A Description of some Ancient Monuments in Lydia and Phyrgia - Plate of Inscriptions (1842)
Views in Egypt - Egyptain Dancing Girls (1801)
Four Months in a Dahabeeh - The Temple of Dom Ombo and the Dahabeeh Cairo (1863)
Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia, and Egypt Vol. 1 - Peons of Mysore [I] (1809)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - Arabs of the Desert (1855)
The River Jordan : Pictorial and Descriptive - Title Page (1858)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Cyrene Inscriptions [VII] (1864)
Views in India, China, and on the Shores of the Red Sea - Sultan Mahomed Shahs Tomb, Bejapore (1835)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 1 & 2 - Doorway, Baalbec (1855)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 5 & 6 - Fragment of the Great Colossus at the Menonium, Thebes (1855)
Under the Syrian Sun Vol. 1 - A Druse House, Mount Lebanon (1907)
Plates Illustrative of the Researches and Operations of G. Belzoni - From the Great temple of Ybsambul in Nubia (1820)
Scenes in the East - Back Cover (1870)
A Journey from London to Persepolis - Gounip from Chegeer (1865)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - Gateway at Dendera (1855)
Views in Egypt - An Egyptian Peasant and Family (1801)
Journal of a Tour in the Levant Vol. 3 - Spine (1820)
Views in the Ottoman Dominions - View of Constantinople (1810)
The Land of Midian (Revisited) Vol. 1 - Wasm or Arab Tribe Marks (1879)
Views in Palestine - Fountain of Siloam near Jerusalem (1804)
Recueil de Cent Estampes Representant Differentes Nations du Levant - Hongrois (1714)
The Costume of Turkey - An Inhabitant of the Isle of Simia (1802)
Views in Egypt - A Lady of Cairo (1801)
Out-of-Doors in the Holy Land - Ruins of Jerash, Looking West - Propylaeum and Temple Terrace (1908)
Views in the Ottoman Empire - Title Page (1803)
Byzantine Architecture - The Church of the Holy Apostles, Thessalonica - Longitudinal Section (1864)
Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia, and Egypt Vol. 3 - View from the Ras's-House at Antalow (1809)
Views in the Ottoman Dominions - Monuments near Tortosa No. 2 (1810)
Palestine Illustrated - Jezreel (1888)
The Land of Midian (Revisited) Vol. 2 - Back Cover (1879)
Picturesque Scenery in the Holy Land and Syria - Joseph's Pit and Well (1823)
Recueil de Cent Estampes Representant Differentes Nations du Levant - Le Grand Seigneur dans Le Serrail (1714)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Plan of Cyrene [I] (1864)
Views in the Ottoman Empire - Ancient Granary at Cacamo (1803)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - View at Luxor, Thebes (1855)
Voyage des Souverains du Canal du Suez - Back Cover (1870)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - Interior of the Great Temple of Aboo-Simbel, Nubia (1855)
Histoire de l'Egypte sous le Gouvernement de Mohammed-Aly [Atlas] - Vue du Palais et du Serail de Mohammed-Aly a Alexandre (1823)
Journal of a Tour in the Levant Vol. 2 - Spine (1820)
Voyage a Athenes et a Constantinopole - Une Mosquee a Athenes (1825)
Under the Syrian Sun Vol. 1 - Cedars of Lebanon (1907)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Amor Bon Abdi Seyat and Sheik Bochlega (1864)
Recueil de Cent Estampes Representant Differentes Nations du Levant - Fille de Naxis Isle de l'Archipel (1714)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 1 & 2 - St. Jean d'Acre, from the Land (1855)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 1 & 2 - Convent of St. Saba (1855)
Histoire de l'Egypte sous le Gouvernement de Mohammed-Aly [Atlas] - Abdallah-ebn-Souhoud, Chef des Wahabys (1823)
The Redemption of Egypt - Front Cover (1899)
Views in Palestine - A Maronite Monk & Pilgrims (1804)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - Excavated Temple of Gyrshe, Nubia (1855)
Plates Illustrative of the Researches and Operations of G. Belzoni - Forced passage in to the second pyramid of Ghizeh. Discovered by G. Belzoni, 1818. (1820)

Related Maps

Map Name
Journal of a Tour in the Levant Vol. 1 - Map of Greece and the Archipelago (1820)
Journal of a Tour in the Levant Vol. 3 - Map of the Countries on the East Coast of the Mediterranean Sea (1820)
Palestine Illustrated - Modern Palestine (1888)
Palestine Illustrated - The Central Ridge of Palestine (1888)
Palestine Illustrated - The City of Jerusalem (Modern) (1888)
Voyage en Perse Vol. 2 - Carte de la Perse Pour le Voyage du Colonel G Dourville 1819 (1825)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Cyrenaica Corrected from the Surveys of Capt's Smyth, Beechy and Spratt (1864)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Cyrenaica Corrected from the Surveys of Capt's Smyth, Beechy and Spratt (1864)
Voyage a l'Oasis de Syouah - Carte de l'Oasis de Syouah (1823)
The Land of Midian (Revisited) Vol. 2 - Map of the Land of Midian (1879)
The Dead Sea, a New Route to India Vol. 1 - Map of Palestine with Portions of Syria (1855)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - Map to Illustrate Mr. Robert's Route (1855)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 5 & 6 - Map of the Valley of the Nile (1855)
A Pilgrimage to Egypt - Egypt Map (1897)
A Pilgrimage to Egypt - Sketch Map of Lower Egypt (1897)
A Visit to the Suez Canal - Sketch Map of the Suez Canal (1866)
The Land of Israel - Routes in the Holy Land by the Rev'd H. B. Tristram (1865)
The Land of Israel - The Dead Sea to Illustrate the Routes and Observations of the Rev'd H. B. Tristram (1865)

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