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Origins of Writing in Northeastern Africa  

John Coleman Darnell

The Egyptian hieroglyphic script is one of the longest attested continuous uses of a writing system in world history. Between the late fourth century CE and the early nineteenth century, knowledge of the hieroglyphic script was lost, and the complexities of its mixed system of phonetic and ideographic signs delayed decipherment until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone and the work of Jean-François Champollion and other pioneers. Egyptian hieroglyphic writing originated between 3300 and 3100 bce, on the basis of evidence attested in funerary and petroglyphic contexts; the early date of phonetic hieroglyphic writing in Upper Egypt confirms the independent development of the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian writing systems. Rather than emerging abruptly and fully formed during the reign of a Dynasty 0 ruler c. 3250 bce, hieroglyphs appear to have a millennium-long “proto-history.” Decorated ceramics, small inscribed objects, and a large corpus of Upper Egyptian and Nubian rock art indicate that visual communication prior to true writing in Upper Egypt could express key early political and religious concepts, developing a form of “iconographic syntax.” Careful examination of predynastic iconography thus provides the conceptual missing link in the origins of writing in Northeastern Africa. The marginal environments of ancient Egypt—the Western Desert and Sinai Peninsula—also preserve evidence for the development of the world’s first alphabetic script, a writing system that emerged c. 1800 bce from contact between ancient Egyptian scribes and Semitic speakers who participated in Egyptian expeditions, with signs deriving from Egyptian scripts. During the 2nd century bce, the Meroitic script, with signs also originating in both cursive and hieroglyphic Egyptian scripts, developed in the ancient Nubian kingdom of Meroe and remained in use for as many as 700 years.

Article

The Inclusion-Moderation Thesis: Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt  

Khalil Al-Anani

The Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) is one of the most popular and influential socioreligious movements in the Muslim world. Over the past century, the movement dominated the religious sphere in several countries, with its extraordinary ability to blend religion, politics, and activism. With its comprehensive and elastic ideology, disciplined structure, and enormous resources, the Muslim Brotherhood (hereafter, the Brotherhood) was able to galvanize and mobilize Muslims in order to achieve its political, social, and religious objectives. Over the past few years, the Brotherhood has been a subject of debate and disagreement among scholars, particularly regarding its ideology, tactics, and objectives. Also, scholars disagree whether the Brotherhood should be studied as a religious, social, or political movement. In fact, the multifaceted character of the Brotherhood, which is part of its very nature since the beginning, has something to do with this confusion and disagreement. Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Brotherhood, adopted a comprehensive vision of Islam that encompasses religion, politics, preaching, activism, and charity. He envisioned the Brotherhood as a movement that combines the mundane and spirituality, religion and politics, and charity with activism. Also, some scholars tend to apply the so-called “inclusion-moderation” hypothesis in order to explain the behavior, ideology, and strategy of Islamist movements. It assumes that the integration of the anti-establishment parties and movements can lead to the moderation of their ideology, behavior, and strategy. However, the “inclusion-moderation” hypothesis suffers two key limitations. The first one relates to the controversial nature of the concept of “moderation” itself and the disagreement among scholars over its definition. And the second lies in the mechanical and linear thrust of the hypothesis. Moderation is an ambiguous and highly controversial term in the scholarship about Islamists. Although some scholars equate it with nonviolence, others stretch it to include liberal and progressive views. Also, the integration of Islamist movements is not inevitably conducive to moderation, nor does it necessarily lead to democratization. Similarly, the exclusion of Islamists does not necessarily result in radicalization or extremism. Surprisingly, in some cases exclusion led to the moderation of Islamists, such as in Tunisia under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Therefore, it is more useful to focus on the processes and dynamics of Islamists’ inclusion than focusing on the outcome of these processes and dynamics. The case of the Brotherhood after the Egyptian uprising of 2011 provides an important example for examining the limits and shortcomings of the inclusion-moderation hypothesis and to what extent it can be applied to Islamist movements. It also helps us to understand the relationship between the internal and external factors and how they shape the ideology and behavior of Islamist movements.

Article

America’s Interactions with Islam and Judaism in North Africa  

Lawrence A. Peskin

Encounters between Americans, Muslims, and Jews in North Africa played a foundational role in Americans’ early understanding of Islam and Judaism. At a time when the United States population had few Jews and virtually no free Muslims, North Africa was one of the places Americans were most likely to meet individuals from these groups. Initially, American sailors and diplomats encountered North African Muslims and Jews as the result of frequent ship captures by Barbary corsairs beginning in the colonial period and culminating in the 1780s and 1790s. After 1815, the sailors and diplomats were joined by missionaries journeying to the Mediterranean region to convert Jews and Muslims as well as non-Protestant Christians. These encounters prompted a good deal of literature published in the United States, including captivity narratives, novels, plays, histories, and missionary journals. These publications reinforced two dominant views of Islam. First, the early focus on Barbary corsairs capturing American “slaves” reinforced old notions of Islam as despotic and Muslims as “savages” similar to Native Americans. Missionary accounts prompted more thoughtful approaches to Muslim theology at the same time that they reinforced existing notions of Islam as a deceitful religion and revivified millenarian hopes that the declining Ottoman Empire foretold the Second Coming. As a result of the captivity crises, Americans often had to deal with the area’s small but influential group of Jewish merchants in order to get terms and credit to free their countrymen. These fraught negotiations reinforced older European stereotypes of Jews as sharpers and Shylocks. As with Islam, the missionary period brought more thoughtful consideration of Jewish theology as Americans engaged in chiliastic hopes of bringing the Jews to Jerusalem. After 1850 or so, Americans interested in Jews or Muslims looked less frequently to North Africa. Growing immigrant populations, first of Jews and then of Muslims, meant that Americans could encounter people of all three Abrahamic faiths at home. At the same time, missionary interests moved east, into the Holy Land, Syria, Turkey, and ultimately East Asia. Nevertheless, the early impact of North Africa on American thinking retained its influence, as is evident from President Barack Obama’s 2009 speech on American-Islamic relations delivered in Cairo.

Article

Thebes (2), capital of pharaonic Egypt  

Joseph Grafton Milne and Antony Spawforth

Thebes (2) (ancient Egyptian name Waset, modern Luxor), sometime capital of pharaonic *Egypt, visited by *Herodotus(1) (2.143), and still an important city at the Macedonian conquest, whereafter it was superseded as the administrative centre of the Thebaid by *Ptolemais(2). In Strabo's day it was no more than a group of villages (17.1.46, 815–816 C), having suffered through serving twice (207/206 and 88 bce) as a base for indigenous revolts against the Ptolemies; and in 30 or 29 bceC. *Cornelius Gallus sacked the city following anti-Roman unrest. Even so, Ptolemaic patronage of Egyptian religion extended to the Theban temples. Sporadic building continued under the Principate at least as late as c. 150ce; but the Egyptian cult in the temple of Amon (Karnak) had been abandoned before the late 3rd century, when the complex became a Roman fortress and pharaonic statuary was carefully buried. Long before, the Theban monuments had become a centre for Roman *tourism, above all the colossi of *Memnon and the pharaonic tombs.

Article

Triphiodorus, of Panopolis  

Laura Miguélez-Cavero

Triphiodorus, who originated from Egypt and lived in the 3rd century ce, was an epic poet and teacher of grammar whose only extant work is The Sack of Troy (691 lines, narrating the final events of the Trojan War).Triphiodorus means “gift of Triphis,” a local deity of Panopolis (modern Akhmim) in Upper Egypt, and was a common name in Panopolis itself and all over Upper Egypt. This and the entry of the Suda (T 1111), calling him an Egyptian, have led to the conclusion that he originated from the area of Panopolis. The Suda actually includes two entries under the same name, the first (T 1111) calling him a poet and grammarian (γραμματικὸς καὶ ποιητὴς ἐπῶν) and attributing to him Marathoniaca (Μαραθωνιακά, on the battle of Marathon, or more likely on Theseus and the Marathonian bull, as in Callimachus’ Hecale), The Sack of Troy.

Article

Coptic language  

T. G. Wilfong

Coptic is the latest phase of the ancient Egyptian language, written in an alphabet partly derived from Greek and incorporating Greek vocabulary. Strongly associated with Christianity in Egypt, Coptic preserves a wide range of original and translated Christian literature as well as an important body of documentary texts of the later Roman, Byzantine, and early Islamic periods.

Coptic is the latest phase of the ancient Egyptian language, notable for its use of a largely Greek-derived alphabet, its extensive incorporation of Greek vocabulary, and its strong association with Christianity in Egypt. Coptic texts include a wide range of documentary texts of the later Roman, Byzantine, and early Islamic periods; an extensive and rich body of original and translated Christian literature (of particular importance for the early history of Christian monasticism); and unique witnesses to major Gnostic, Manichaean, and Hermetic texts. Coptic was ultimately supplanted by Arabic as the language of daily life in Egypt, but it continues in use to the present as a liturgical language within Christian communities in Egypt (and expatriate Coptic communities across the world).

Article

prices  

Paul Erdkamp

While our sources mention numerous prices of a wide range of commodities, the question remains to what extent these prices offer insight into the ancient economy. Despite the wealth of data, reliable prices of everyday goods under normal market conditions are rare. The extent to which they can be used to analyze such topics as market integration, living standards, market stability, and inflation is limited. Only regarding Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt do we possess sufficient market prices (rather than imposed prices or valuations) to conduct meaningful analyses. For most of the rest of the empire, the prices—in particular those of everyday goods—are generally too uncertain, too sparse, and too diverse to form a solid basis for economic analysis. It is a valid question, moreover, to what extent prices in the ancient world reflect the interplay of supply and demand according to modern economic theory. Nevertheless, ancient writers depict price levels as depending on the interplay of supply and demand, and market transactions, as narrated in our sources, emphasizing competition and bargaining, make clear that price formation was largely determined by economic forces. Hence, prices fluctuated over time and differed in various places. The authorities tried to keep prices of staple foods low by influencing market conditions, but direct price fixing was rare.

Article

Evagrius Ponticus  

Blossom Stefaniw

A deacon, ascetic teacher, and prolific writer, Evagrius Ponticus lived from c. 345 to 399ce. Within some strands of late ancient Christianity, his teachings were no longer considered orthodox later in his life or after his death, although the Armenian and Syrian churches continued to cherish his writings. As a young man, Evagrius contributed to the doctrinal campaign of Gregory Nazianzus at the 1st Council of Constantinople in 381, a position which prevailed as orthodox at that time. Around 382, Evagrius left the capital and joined a monastic community in Jerusalem led by Rufinus of Aquileia and Melania the Elder, who were learned ascetics. In 383, while still in Jerusalem, Evagrius committed himself to asceticism and eventually travelled to Egypt. Until his death in 399, Evagrius studied and taught and wrote on the ascetic life, developing a meticulous taxonomy of evil thoughts, their origins, and the physical experiences associated with them. He arranged his works in an ascetic curriculum for the training of monks, monitored and counseled more junior monks in their practice, and provided handbooks on the ascetic practices or biblical texts which were best suited to neutralize specific evil thoughts.

Article

Arsenius the Great  

Blossom Stefaniw

The literary tradition portrays Arsenius as a particularly stringent and austere man who was formed as a monk at Sketis, near Alexandria. It is probable that his reputation in his own day was much greater than the scope allowed him in the modern reception of the desert tradition, which tends to focus on other figures like Antony the Great. While we cannot independently verify his date of birth or death or his precise movements and deeds during his life, the traditional story of Arsenius remains important as a depository of key elements from the ascetic tradition, such as the relationships between different ethnic and social groups within ascetic communities, the abba and disciple system of ascetic formation, and teachings on compunction, pure prayer, and extreme austerities.Arsenius is believed to have been born to an aristocratic family in Rome around the year 354 and to have committed himself to an ascetic life as a young man. He moved to Constantinople in 383 and is said to have tutored the Emperor Theodosius’ sons (Arcadius and Honorius) while there.

Article

Heracleopolis, Jewish politeuma  

Patrick Sänger

There existed, under the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt, an institution, or association, called a politeuma (“polity”). Usually the word politeuma is related to Greek city states or poleis. In this context politeuma can mean “government,” “citizenry,” “polity,” or “state,” or, as a technical term, it can refer to the body of citizens who had political rights.1 The Ptolemies seem to have adopted the word politeuma and transferred it to a specific form of association which was apparently destined for organized groups of persons living within an urban area and named after an ethnic designation. Indeed, this particular word usage occurs only on the (former) territory of the Ptolemaic kingdom: in Hellenistic Egypt, politeumata of Cilicians, Cretans (both in the Arsinoite nome?), Boeotians (in Xois), and Idumaeans (in Memphis) are attested. We come across all these politeumata in the 2nd or 1st century bce. In Sidon, politeumata have been discovered of immigrants from the cities of Kaunos (in Caria), Termessos Minor near Oinoanda, and Pinara (both in Lycia) dating to the end of the 3rd century bce (when Sidon was still controlled by the Ptolemies).

Article

arithmetical tables  

Giuseppina Azzarello

Greek arithmetical tables are systematic series of calculations written on papyrus and other light materials such as potsherds, wooden and wax tablets, and paper. About 150 items stemming from Egypt and covering a wide chronological range (4th century bce–13th century ce) have been published. Calculations are normally written in columns and separated by vertical and horizontal lines. They consist of addition, multiplication, squares and division, which are expressed in form of fractions (4: 2 = 2 is expressed as ½ of 4 = 2), and their results are given as the addition of juxtaposed unit fractions, a feature originating in Egyptian mathematics. Every kind of operation presents different patterns and features which can be of help in determining chronology and context. It is particularly challenging to establish the context of the tables, as they can belong to reference books used by professional accountants or be school texts. Material, handwriting, spelling, and the presence of other inscriptions on the same item, such as drawings, personal names, or even school exercises, can shed light on this point.

Article

Education in Colonial Sudan, 1900–1957  

Iris Seri-Hersch

In the first half of the 20th century, Sudan, which included the territories of present-day Sudan and South Sudan, was ruled by a dual colonial government known as the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1899–1956). Britain was the senior partner in this administration, Egypt being itself politically and militarily subordinated to Britain between 1882 and 1956. During most of the colonial period, Sudan was ruled as two Sudans, as the British sought to separate the predominantly Islamic and Arabic-speaking North from the multireligious and multilingual South. Educational policy was no exception to this: until 1947, the British developed a government school system in the North while leaving educational matters in the hands of Christian missionaries in the South. In the North, the numerically dominant government school network coexisted with Egyptian schools, missionary schools, community schools, and Sudanese private schools. In the South, schools were established by the Anglican Church Missionary Society, the Roman Catholic Verona Fathers, and the American Presbyterian Mission. Whereas Arabic and English were the mediums of instruction in Northern schools, the linguistic situation was more complicated in the South, where local vernaculars, English and Romanized Arabic were used in missionary schools. The last colonial decade (1947–1957) witnessed a triple process of educational expansion, unification, and nationalization. Mounting Anglo-Egyptian rivalries over the control of Sudan and the polarization of Sudanese nationalists into “pro-British” independentists and “pro-Egyptian” unionists led the British authorities in Khartoum to boost government education while giving up the policy of separate rule between North and South. In practice, educational unification of the two Sudanese regions meant the alignment of Southern curricula on Northern programs and the introduction of Arabic into Southern schools, first as a subject matter, then as a medium of instruction. Missionary and other private schools were nationalized one year after Sudan gained independence from Britain and Egypt (1956).

Article

Afroasiatic Languages  

Zygmunt Frajzyngier

Afroasiatic languages are the fourth largest linguistic phylum, spoken by some 350 million people in North, West, Central, and East Africa, in the Middle East, and in scattered communities in Europe, the United States, and the Caucasus. Some Afroasiatic languages, such as Arabic, Hausa, Amharic, Somali, and Oromo, are spoken by millions of people, while others are endangered with extinction. As of the early 21st century, the phylum is composed of six families: Egyptian (extinct), Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic, Berber, and Chadic. There are some typological features shared by all families, particularly in the domain of phonology. Languages are also typologically quite distinct with respect to syntax and functions encoded in the grammatical systems. Some Afroasiatic languages, such as Egyptian, Akkadian, Phoenician, Hebrew, Arabic, and Ge’ez, have a longtime written tradition, but for many languages no writing system has yet been proposed or adopted. The Old Semitic writing system gave rise to the modern alphabets used in thousands of unrelated contemporary languages. Two Semitic languages, Hebrew (with some Aramaic) and Arabic, were used to write the Old Testament and the Koran, the holy books of Judaism and Islam.

Article

Egypt, Ophelia Settle  

Carrie J. Smith

Ophelia Settle Egypt (1903–1984) was a pioneer in family planning among economically disadvantaged African Americans. She is best known for her work in planned parenthood through her efforts at the Parklands Planned Parenthood Clinic in Washington, DC, from 1956 to 1968.

Article

Women in Modern Egypt  

Hoda Elsadda

Women in Egypt have always played key roles in society in different historical eras. In the modern period, women were at the forefront of the modernization project that gained momentum at the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century. “The woman question” occupied center stage in debates about the new modern nation in the making and against the background of colonial domination as Egypt became a British protectorate in 1882. The period from the 1920s to the early 1950s is noted as a period that was particularly vibrant in the history of the women’s movement and witnessed rapid developments in women’s participation in the public sphere. Women founded magazines, established civil society organizations in all fields, joined the national movement for independence, and contributed to key ongoing debates on the modernization project. In 1952, the Free Officers Revolution resulted in a radical shift in the political sphere: the end of British colonialism, the transformation of Egypt from a monarchy to a socialist republic, and the start of a new era. The new order promoted women’s education and access to the labor market but restricted political rights and freedoms in general, a new reality that inevitably impacted the development of an independent women’s movement. In the 1970s, women’s rights assumed center stage in international politics, a development that had an impact on women in general and Egyptian women in particular. Egyptian women entered the diplomatic corps and participated in drafting international conventions, in representing their country in international forums, and in joining international civil society campaigns for women’s rights. They also established a new generation of civil society organizations that advocated for women’s rights both locally and on the international stage. The year 2011 marks an important moment in the history of Egypt. The wave of revolutions that swept the Arab world resulted in the opening of the political sphere in an unprecedented manner. Women’s rights activists rose to the challenge, and more and more women were active participants in the movement for change. Women joined new political parties that were established in the aftermath of revolutions; they were active participants in numerous political and social initiatives and movements; and they played a prominent role in marches for political and social freedoms. In sum, women in modern Egypt have played key roles in the making of modern Egypt. The story of their contributions and achievements is the story of a movement for change toward a better future.

Article

The Nile Waters Issue  

Terje Tvedt

To understand the role of the modern Nile in African history, it is first necessary to have familiarity with the premodern “natural” Nile, including both its hydrology and societal importance. It is well known that no river basin in the world has a longer, more complex, and more eventful history. The Nile water issue in modern times is a history of how economic and political developments in East and North Africa have been fundamentally shaped by the interconnectedness of the Nile’s particular physical and hydrological character; the efforts of adapting to, controlling, using, and sharing the waters of the river; and the different ideas and ambitions that political leaders have had for the Nile.

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The Planets in Ancient Egypt  

Joachim Friedrich Quack

The five visible planets are certainly attested to in Egyptian sources from about 2000 bce. The three outer ones are religiously connected with the falcon-headed god Horus, Venus with his father Osiris, and Mercury with Seth, the brother and murderer of Osiris. Clear attestations of the planets are largely limited to decoration programs covering the whole night sky. There are a number of passages in religious texts where planets may be mentioned, but many of them are uncertain because the names given to the planets are for most of them not specific enough to exclude other interpretations. There may have been a few treatises giving a more detailed religious interpretation of the planets and their behavior, but they are badly preserved and hardly understandable in the details. In the Late Period, probably under Mesopotamian influence, the sequence of the planets as well as their religious associations could change; at least one source links Saturn with the Sun god, Mars with Miysis, Mercury with Thot, Venus with Horus, son of Isis, and Jupiter with Amun, arranging the planets with those considered negative in astrology first, separated from the positive ones by the vacillating Mercury. Late monuments depicting the zodiac place the planets in positions which are considered important in astrology, especially the houses or the place of maximum power (hypsoma; i.e., “exaltation”). Probably under Babylonian influence, in the Greco-Roman Period mathematical models for calculating the positions and phases of the planets arose. These were used for calculating horoscopes, of which a number in demotic Egyptian are attested. There are also astrological treatises (most still unpublished) in the Egyptian language which indicate the relevance of planets for forecasts, especially for the fate of individuals born under a certain constellation, but also for events important for the king and the country in general; they could be relevant also for enterprises begun at a certain date. There is some reception of supposedly or actually specific Egyptian planet sequences, names and religious associations in Greek sources.

Article

Gods in Ancient Egypt  

Oskar Kaelin

The ancient Egyptians were surrounded by various manifestations of their many gods. Though their gods usually lived in heaven or in the netherworlds, they were permanently represented on earth by monuments, statues, symbols, animals, and plants, as well as by social concepts. The Egyptians described their gods by various names and images, always aware that in the end their true personalities and characters remained elusive. The ancient Egyptian universe comprised heaven, earth, and netherworld, all part of creation and surrounded by eternal darkness. Though separate areas, they were permeable for the gods and the dead. The universe ran smoothly as long as there was respect and cooperation between them and the living. This formed an ideological, social, and economic cohesion. The gods were powerful but benevolent, and approachable in many ways. The divine king was the hub between the world of the gods and the human sphere. He was the main entity responsible for organizing the supply and welfare of the humans, and for keeping order. During official festivals, the living, the gods, and the dead celebrated together, but there were also a number of more personal ways to approach deities. The various sites of interaction between gods and men formed a vast network connecting all the players: the gods were responsible for creation and abundance, the kings and elites were primarily responsible for ensuring that the system ran according to Maat (“Order”), and the people were responsible for living and working throughout the country. The system of ancient Egyptian gods structured Egyptian ideas, policies, and everyday life from the end of the 4th millennium bce to the rise of Christianity and beyond. The ancient Egyptians’ beliefs were polytheistic, acknowledging the existence of thousands of gods and endless deceased humans. At times, the ancient Egyptians appeared to be henotheistic and would exalt a deity in his or her uniqueness. Moreover, with Akhenaten, they were the first to experiment with monotheism, though that did not last much longer than a decade. The ideas and images created for the Egyptian gods and religion had an impact on many contemporaneous cultures, as well as on later religions.

Article

Ancient Egyptian Religion  

Korshi Dosoo

While ancient Egyptians had no conception of religion as a distinct sphere of life, modern scholars have identified a wide range of Egyptian beliefs and practices relating to the divine. Egyptian religion can be traced back to predynastic times, and it developed continuously until the decline of temple religion in the Roman Period. Three mythic cycles are key to its understanding: the creation of the world, and the related solar cycle, which describe the origin and maintenance of the world, and the Osiris cycle, which provides a justification for the human institutions of kingship and funerary rites. Egyptian religion may be seen as being centered on its temples, which functioned both as sites for the worship of the resident gods and the elaboration of their theologies and as important economic and political centers. In addition to gods, three other categories of divine beings played important roles in Egyptian religious practice: kings, sacred and divine animals, and the dead. The king was intimately involved in the temple religion, as the mediator between the divine and human spheres, the patron of the temples, and the beneficiary of his own rituals, while divine and sacred animals seem to have been likewise understood as living embodiments of divine power. Death was understood through a range of metaphors, to which the ritual response was to link the deceased to one or more of the cosmic cycles through practices aimed at translating them into the divine sphere and thus ensuring their continued existence. As with all aspects of the religion, these rituals changed over time but show remarkable consistency throughout recorded history. Alongside these rituals centered on temple, royal, and funerary cults, a number of personal religious practices have been reconstructed as well as one major break in continuity, the “Amarna Revolution,” in which the ruling king seems to have briefly instituted a form of monotheism.

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The Ottoman Empire: Institutions and Economic Change, 1500–1914  

Şevket Pamuk

The Ottoman Empire stood at the crossroads of intercontinental trade for six centuries until World War I. For most of its existence, the economic institutions and policies of this agrarian empire were shaped according to the distribution of political power, cooperation, conflicts, and struggles between the state elites and the various other elites, including those in the provinces. The central bureaucracy managed to contain the many challenges it faced with its pragmatism and habit of negotiation to co-opt and incorporate into the state the social groups that rebelled against it. As long as the activities of the economic elites, landowners, merchants, the leading artisans, and the moneylenders contributed to the perpetuation of this social order, the state encouraged and supported them but did not welcome their rapid enrichment. The influence of these elites over economic matters, and more generally over the policies of the central government, remained limited. Cooperation and coordination among the provincial elites was also made more difficult by the fact that the empire covered a large geographical area, and the different ethnic groups and their elites did not always act together. Differences in government policies and the institutional environment between Western Europe and the Middle East remained limited until the early modern era. With the rise of the Atlantic trade, however, the merchants in northwestern European countries increased their economic and political power substantially. They were then able to induce their governments to defend and develop their commercial interests in the Middle East more forcefully. As they began to lag behind the European merchants even in their own region, it became even more difficult for the Ottoman merchants to provide input into their government’s trade policies or change the commercial or economic institutions in the direction they preferred. Key economic institutions of the traditional Ottoman order, such as state ownership of land, urban guilds, and selective interventionism, remained mostly intact until 1820. In the early part of the 19th century, the center, supported by the new technologies, embarked on an ambitious reform program and was able to reassert its power over the provinces. Centralization and reforms were accompanied by the opening of the economy to international trade and investment. Economic policies and institutional changes in the Ottoman Empire began to reflect the growing power of European states and companies during the 19th century.