North–South movements
Making a career working for the sultan
Some skilled and ambitious Europeans fleeing persecution or seeking a more prosperous life found that the Ottoman Empire and North Africa provided good career opportunities.
Since the onset of their rule in the 16th century, the Ottoman sultans had not only ruled over a multicultural empire but had regularly employed governmental officials and military officers from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. During the 19th century, their ranks were joined by European professionals, some having fled their home countries for political reasons. Further opportunity for such individuals arose in the years 1839–76, a period known as “Tanzimat” (lit. reorganisation). Throughout those years, the Ottoman Empire underwent extensive reform, its administration and military increasingly opened up to European and non-Muslim professionals. In 1856 a government decree granted Muslims and non-Muslims equal obligations in terms of military service and equal opportunities for state employment.
Bashi Bazouk


Sharjah Art Museum / Sharjah Museums Authority, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (Sharjah)

Vittorio Amedeo Preziosi


The Bashi Bazouk were mercenaries of great ethnic diversity who fought for the Ottomans in hope of plunder, as they were not paid. They did not wear regular army uniform. After the Russo–Turkish War of 1877–78, the Ottoman government decided to abandon their use.

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In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
Privateering and captivity in the Mediterranean
Migrations within the Ottoman Empire
North–South movements
The life of European immigrant communities: Egypt and Tunisia