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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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Related Images

Image Name
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 1 & 2 - Tyre, from the Isthmus (1855)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - Ancient Watch-Tower, Approach to Petra (1855)
Byzantine Architecture - Mosaic Pavements [I] (1864)
Constantinople Painted and Described - Roumeli Hissar (1906)
The Costume of Turkey - A Bosniac (1802)
The Costume of Turkey - A Spahi (1802)
Journal of a Tour in the Levant Vol. 2 - Tombs in Cairo [I] (1820)
The Oriental Album - Back Cover (1862)
The Rob Roy on the Jordan - Back Cover (1869)
Voyage a Athenes et a Constantinopole - Photo Pikos du Pays de Suli (1825)
Constantinople Painted and Described - Crimean Memorial, British Cemetery, Haidar Pasha (1906)
Egyptian Sepulchres and Syrian Shrines Vol. 2 - Title Page (1862)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 5 & 6 - Front Elevation of the Great Temple of Aboo-Simbel (1855)
Recueil de Cent Estampes Representant Differentes Nations du Levant - Le Grand Seigneur dans Le Serrail (1714)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - Pyramids of Geezeh, from the Nile (1855)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - Statues of Memnon in the Plain of Goorna, at Thebes (1855)
The Banks of the Nile - Waiting for the Breeze, Early Morning, Assuan (1913)
Voyage Pittoresque a Travers l'Isthme de Suez - Le canal maritime au Serapeum (1870)
A Journey from London to Persepolis - Tombs of the Kings, Nakchi Rustum (1865)
From Damascus to Palmyra - A Cobbler, Damascus (1908)
Byzantine Architecture - Plan of the City of Perga - Tomb of Dana (1864)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - View at Luxor, Thebes (1855)
Voyage en Perse Vol. 1 - Spine (1825)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Large Tomb at the Eastern End of the Northern Necropolis (1864)
The Oriental Album - Baghdad Merchant (Travelling) (1862)
Voyage en Perse Vol. 1 - Repas persan (1825)
The Land of Midian (Revisited) Vol. 1 - Lode in the Jibal el-Bayza (1879)
Egypt, Painted and Described - The Village of Salamun (1902)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 1 & 2 - The Armorial Engsigns of Jerusalem (1855)
Egypt, Painted and Described - Gibel Kasr-es-Saad (1902)
The Costume of Turkey - A Bedouin Arab (1802)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 5 & 6 - The Aqueduct of the Nile, from the Island of Rhoda, Cairo (1855)
Views in Palestine - Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (1804)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Iconic Female Figure (1864)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 1 & 2 - The Tomb of Joseph at Shechem (1855)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Encampment Near A Roman Fortress (Gusr Biligadem) (1864)
Plates Illustrative of the Researches and Operations of G. Belzoni - From the tombs of the kings at Thebes (1820)
A Visit to the Suez Canal - Port Said (1866)
Palestine, Past and Present. Pictorial and Descriptive - The Dead Sea (1890)
Views in India, China, and on the Shores of the Red Sea - El Wuish, Red Sea (1835)
Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia, and Egypt Vol. 1 - Title Page (1809)
Byzantine Architecture - Tomb of Ezekial at Kefeli, near Bagdad (1864)
Byzantine Architecture - Back Cover (1864)
Voyage Pittoresque a Travers l'Isthme de Suez - Back Cover (1870)
A Description of some Ancient Monuments in Lydia and Phyrgia - Aga's House, Gombet-Li (1842)
The Dardanelles : Colour Sketches from Gallipoli - Hospital Ship Aquitania at Mudros (1915)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - Back Cover (1855)
Constantinople Painted and Described - The Walls; the Tower of Isaac Angelus (1906)
Palestine Illustrated - Valley of Jehoshaphat (1888)
Views in Egypt - Sepulchres of Arabian Saints, near Rosetta (1801)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Aphrodite Euploia (1864)
The Land of Midian (Revisited) Vol. 1 - The White Mountain (Jebel El-Abyaz) (1879)
Views in Egypt - An Egyptian Ball, at Ned Sili (1801)
From Damascus to Palmyra - The Small Temple, Baalbek. Exterior (1908)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 3 & 4 - Island of Graia, Gulf of Akaba (1855)
Voyage en Perse Vol. 2 - Famille nomade curde sous une Cente avec leurs bestiaux (1825)
Views in India, China, and on the Shores of the Red Sea - Tomb of Humaioon, Delhi (1835)
Egypt, Painted and Described - Philae (1902)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Cyrene Inscriptions [I] (1864)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Cyrene - Plan of the Large Temple at the N.E. End of the City near the Stadium (1864)
Voyage des Souverains du Canal du Suez - Promenade a Ismailia (1870)
Palestine Illustrated - Jerusalem from Olivet (1888)
Plates Illustrative of the Researches and Operations of G. Belzoni - [No. 3. Animal mummies]: 1.Ibis, 2. Ape, 3. Fox, 4. Cat, 5. Ram, 6. Crocodile; 7. Bull. (1820)
Egypt, Painted and Described - Rachel (1902)
Damascus and Palmyra Vol. 2 - Sherbet Seller (1838)
Recueil de Cent Estampes Representant Differentes Nations du Levant - Demoiselle Valaque (1714)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 1 & 2 - Lower Pool of Siloam - Valley of Jehoshaphat (1855)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 1 & 2 - Convent of the Terra Santa, Nazareth (1855)
Views in Egypt - Ruins of the Gymnasium, near the Canopic Gate of Alexandria (1801)
Views in Egypt - Ferry Boat near Nedssili (1801)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 1 & 2 - Doorway, Baalbec (1855)
The Redemption of Egypt - Title Page (1899)
Byzantine Architecture - The Church of St. Demetrius at Thessalonica - Longitudinal and Transverse Sections (1864)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 1 & 2 - Mount Tabor, from the Plain of Esdraelon (1855)
The Home of Fadeless Splendour or, Palestine of Today - The Lake of Galilee towards Mount Hermon (1921)
Histoire de l'Egypte sous le Gouvernement de Mohammed-Aly [Atlas] - Abdallah-ebn-Souhoud, Chef des Wahabys (1823)
The River Jordan : Pictorial and Descriptive - Jacob's Bridge over the Jordan (1858)
Constantinople Painted and Described - Street Scene, Roumeli Hissar (1906)
A Journey from London to Persepolis - Book Display (1865)
Under the Syrian Sun Vol. 1 - The Ras-el-Metn (1907)
Byzantine Architecture - The Church of St. Elias, Thessalonica - West Elevation - Transverse Section (1864)
Egypt, Painted and Described - A Pastoral near Damietta (1902)
Egypt, Painted and Described - A Wedding Procession at Menzala : the Home-Coming of the Bride (1902)
The Holy Land : Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia Vols. 5 & 6 - Temple of Wady Dabod, Nubia (1855)
Views in Palestine - Entrance to the Sepulchres of the Kings of Judah (1804)
Interesting Views in Turkey - Road Over the Balkan Mountain (1819)
Under the Syrian Sun Vol. 2 - The Moab Hills from Mount Zion (1907)
The Banks of the Nile - Darb-el-Gamamiz, Cairo (1913)
Voyage en Perse Vol. 2 - Chasseur conduisant des chiens (1825)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Ruins of Ptolemais (1864)
History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene - Cyrene Inscriptions [IV] (1864)
From Damascus to Palmyra - Triumphal Arch, Palmyra (1908)
Egypt, Painted and Described - A Desert Scout (1902)
Voyage Pittoresque de Constantinople et des Rives du Bosphore Vol. 2 - Title Page (1819)
Plates Illustrative of the Researches and Operations of G. Belzoni - From the tombs of the kings at Thebes (1820)
Voyage Pittoresque de Constantinople et des Rives du Bosphore Vol. 2 - No. 48. Aquéduc de l'empereur Justinien, à quatre lieues de Constantinople (1819)
Views in Palestine - Tomb of the Virgin Mary (1804)
Voyage Pittoresque de Constantinople et des Rives du Bosphore Vol. 2 - No. 39. Prairie de Buyuk-Déré, sur la rive européenne du Bosphore, à quatre lieues de Constantinople (1819)
Voyage des Souverains du Canal du Suez - Ceremonie Religieuse sur la Plage de Port Said (1870)
The Costume of Turkey - Private Secretary to the Grand Seignior (1802)

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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