World History – Ottoman empire and Spanish Empire Guide

The Early Modern Era (1450 CE – 1750 CE) – An Overview

The main takeaways that AP wants you to know are how the Europeans expanded and built their empires or you can metaphorically put it, how the “Europeans woke up”. Trade is also the main theme you should understand and how it was used to its advantages for the different empires. Understand the effects of how these Europeans would come to the land and stayed there, the interactions of economic systems, and importantly what fueled the expansion of empires.

The Ottoman Empire

Did you know? Today, no single Muslim government is as powerful as the Ottoman Empire once was.

The start of the gunpowder empire:

In 1453, the first Osman and was a Turkish principalities generated by the expansion of the Seljuks and also of the Turkish immigrants (led by Mehmed II) busted through the walls of Constantinople, seized the land, and established a new capital called “Istanbul”. To clear misconceptions, “Constantinople” is the ancient city, the name of the city before the Ottomans captured it and after that Sultan Mehmed renamed it to “Istanbul”. (Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire before the Ottomans took it)

They captured Syria, Arabia, Persia, Palestine, Egypt controlled Mecca and Medina, the holiest cities of Islam


By establishing an absolute monarchy like their rivals the Persian Safavids and Indian Moghuls and following similar government tactics and organization, the Ottoman was able to maintain power. Bureaucracy was also a system that was used in the Ottoman empire, it was influenced by the Mongol military state and a legal system based on Muslim law that relied on both military power and economic. They also had a form of self-governing communities called millets: as long as millets were loyal, paid taxes, the sultan allowed freedoms (their communities had different religion meaning letting the communities have religious freedom)

Main Reasons why the Ottoman was Successful:

  • Centralized power
  • Unique Military system
  • Religious tolerance
  • Unique governmental systems (Tax Farming, Devshirme, Millets, Kafes)

How did they legitimize and consolidate their power?

Janissaries, Military Elites: Slaves trained as soldiers who would be an elite squad in the Sultan’s military. This provided the sultan with a loyal, elite fighting force to keep the Christians in the Balkans and Turkish elites within the Ottoman Empire in check by force. They had heavy guns and this control of weapons ensured the Ottomans continuing military success. They weren’t just lowly slaves but were given political and economic power. They were basically “slaves” with money and power in the military.

Ottoman miniature painting: used art to emphasize their imperial conquests. Example:  After his defeat of Constantinople in 1453, for example, Mehmed II adopted visual art to perpetuate his “image as a world conqueror” and identify his capture of the city with some of the most important achievements of the past conquests, particularly those of Alexander the Great.

Devshirme System – ‘the blood tax’

This is the practice of forcibly recruiting soldiers and bureaucrats from among the children of their Balkan Christian subjects. The boys would be given a great education and would later go on to hold positions of administration in the Sultans court.  In special palace schools, they learned Arabic, Persian, Turkish, math, calligraphy, Islam, horsemanship, and/or weaponry. Working in the sultan’s personal services was also part of the overall education, and this entailed assigning the boys to various rooms in the palace to look after such items as the sultan’s hunting birds or the sultan’s valuables. Having an education system based government is really smart and is part of the reason why the Ottoman was successful and also how they consolidated their power.

Suleymaniye Mosque

Time Period: Built in the 16th Century. Why does it look like Hagia Sophia? 

Influence of the Hagia Sophia on Suleymaniye Mosque: has Islamic and Byzantine architectural elements. It combines tall, slender minarets with large domed buildings supported by half domes in the style of the Byzantine church Hagia Sophia. This mosque was really important and it demonstrated the Ottaman’s power during that period through its complex architectures and services they offered: it had a hospital, library, madrasa, kitchen and hospice for the poor, hamam, and shops.

Notable expansion methods:

  • Extensive raiding
  • Settlement and military control (the Janissaries, Military Elites)
  • Able to grow so rapidly because other countries/empires were weak and unorganized
  • The Ottomans had advanced military organization and tactics for the time
  • GUNS and firearms
  • They also created gunpowder which benefited them in battle
  • They were one of the first empires in the middle east to get guns and firearms


  • An agrarian economy/agricultural society
  • Luxury goods such as cocoa, silver, and black pepper saw the Ottoman Empire become an economic warhorse
  • The majority of the population earned their living from small family holdings and this contributed to around 40 percent of taxes for the empire directly as well as indirectly through customs revenues on exports
  • Iltizām system: farming of urban taxes, the production of certain goods (such as wine, salt, or senna), and the provision of certain services (supervised by officials)
  • Tax farming remained an important instrument for extracting revenue from customs transactions, domestic and international trade, and agricultural production
  • Had a sustained trade than the other empires, when compared, partly due to control of the Dardanelles, Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea
  • Woman had more rights, some even traded with real estate
  • Interactions with the environment: because of the environment and geographical location Egypt produced more agricultural goods and revenue for the state than any other province, all because of its fertile soils and nutrient-rich waters of the Nile River. The Ottoman government began to force peasants from distant regions to migrate to Egypt to maintain important dams and canals. They did not survive the little ice age/ global cooling in the early modern period therefore creating agricultural crises and decentralization of the state.

Social structures and gender roles

credits –
  • Large numbers of merchants and artisans (they were regarded as important)
  • Artisans organized into guilds
  • Most were Sunni Muslim, had a diversity of religions, including Christians (allowed them to worship freely)
  • Culturally diverse, largely due to trade connections and diversity of lands governed
  • Womenʼs situation depended on social class, where they lived: in the country, women helped men with farming, herding and in cities, women worked in markets, workshops
  • Islamic law gave women the right to own and inherit property, divorce
  • Women of the sultanʼs court were educated; some very powerful in court

The Spanish Empire

The main theme for the Spanish Empire in AP world history is exploration and trade. They found the “new land” which is modern day America, they also colonized in the land which had native Americans in them for years already, the impact for this can be seen in today’s time. Understanding the major advantage of the new exploration, the trade routes, the impact of their interactions, and how did they did it, is the main things you need to know for AP world history. Anyways, the Spanish empire in America was formed after conquering and colonizing the indigenous people and “claiming” the new lands.

Did you know? The Spanish Empire was the 3rd largest empire that ever existed in the world’s history

Geography and Trade Routes


  • Government type : Catholic Monarchy
  • Driven largely by political, religious, and economic rivalries, European states established new maritime empires
  • Methods of expansion was made by the conquistadors and developed by the Monarchy of Spain
  • Used administrators and missionaries
  • Motivation for expansion: 3 Gs = Gold, Glory, God
  • After Christopher’s “discovery” of the new land and his death, his son was not allowed to take over but rather the governors were replaced with successors from Spain
  • They invaded and colonized great parts of what would become South, Central, and North America
  • Example : Hernan Cortes and the Mexica, panish conquistador who sought glory and gold for himself and his men. Arrived in Tenochtitlan with less than 1,000 men but was able to conquer the Mexica capital with superior technology and help of Mexica enemies
  • In order to control its new empire, Spain created a formal system of government to rule its colonies, to demand labor or taxes from Native Americans
  • The Spanish believed they had a duty to convert Native Americans to Christianity
  • Basically they enslaved the people who were already there and force labor onto them
  • The colonies were divided into Viceroyalties (like states), and each was overseen by a viceroy. The viceroy cited as the king for that area and answered only to the king of Spain and the Council of the Indies.
  • Basically viceroy and the king of Spain were in charge of everything
Trading posts and colonies established by Spain (Red)
Technological innovations the Spanish used (credit:


  • based on exploitation, both of land and of Native American labor
  • made a deep impact on the peoples living in these regions, particularly in America and Africa
  •  did not find much gold in North America. They started farms called haciendas to make money
  • after that they imported enslaved Africans to replace the many American Indians who died
  • Most of the enslaved Africans worked on sugar cane plantations in the Caribbean colonies.
  • AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE/THE ATLANTIC TRADING SYSTEM: Newly developed colonial economies in the Americas largely depended on agriculture, utilizing existing labor systems, including the Incan mit’a, and introduced new labor systems including chattel slavery, indentured servitude, and encomienda and hacienda systems
  • increased the demand for slaves in the Americas, leading to significant demographic, social, and cultural changes
  • resulted in the mixing of African, American, and European cultures and peoples
  • the global flow of silver, especially from Spanish colonies in the Americas, which was used to purchase Asian goods for the Atlantic markets and satisfy Chinese demand for silver
  • Regional markets continued to flourish in Afro–Eurasia by using established commercial practices and new transoceanic and regional shipping services developed by European merchants
  • China needed silver because of the new tax that was enforced (they switched to collecting taxes in silver form instead of accepting animals)

Similarities and Differences


  •  the establishment of trade routes
  • Socially: they were both very strict religious empires
  • Religious conversion: The Spanish spread Christianity throughout the Americas, converting Natives. Ottomans, the janissaries (converted young boys to military elites) and also the blood tax


  • Taxing: Although the Ottoman Empire was tolerant of other religions, they imposed a special tax on non Muslims called the jizya. Where as the Spanish empire did not tolerate other religion
  • Expansion conquest: Spanish motivation was originally to find a new trade route to China to avoid the heavy tax. Ottoman Empire expanded for military control.

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