Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, October 5, 2014

When did the Ottoman Empire Become the "Sick Man of Europe"?

In January 1853, Tsar Nicholas I, "sweating violently" from a high fever and the gout, had risen from his sickbed to meet Sir Hamilton Seymour, the British minister in St. Petersburg. Their conversation turned inevitably to the Tsar's main preoccupation. Nicholas was convinced that the Ottoman Empire was on the point of imminent collapse. He told Seymour, "We have a sick man on our hands, a man who is seriously ill; it will. . .be a great misfortune if he escapes us one of these days, especially before all the arrangements are made."

From Andrew Wheatcroft's The Ottomans


  1. Ironic how Nikolaus 1 only lived for another two years and then the Russian Monarchy surviving for only another 60 odd years, while the
    Turks, though surely sick, outlasting the Russians by several years.

    1. The best laid plans of mice and men...I think history has shown that too often we are more mice than men; giving eloquence to our actions with a tidal wave of approval behind them, but negligent in weighing the consequences, the unintended consequences. Few would argue I think that this was the case one hundred years ago; the Great War was certainly that. Critical analysis with widespread education opportunities in these elapsed 100 years has certainly made us "smarter", but yet it seems there are no shortage of popular tidal waves latching on to flawed slogans.

      Incidentally Woodrow Wilson, the educator, I have read, was largely the moving force behind instituting critical thinking in the college curriculum rather than rote memory.