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Mehmed II

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The Islamic World: Past and Present What is This? Accessible coverage of Islam from the seventh century to the twenty-first century

    Mehmed II

    1432 – 1481 Ottoman sultan

    In 1444 Sultan Murad II, in an attempt to prevent a struggle for succession after his death, turned over the throne to his 12-year-old son, Mehmed II. During the next two years, internal and external crises threatened the reign of the child ruler, and Murad returned to the throne and restored order. He died in 1451 , and Mehmed (then 19) regained the throne. The young sultan punished his opponents and gained control of the Janissaries, an elite military force.

    Mehmed engaged in a program of conquests, establishing the Ottoman Empire as a major force. After strengthening the military, Mehmed marched on Constantinople, the Byzantine capital. Supported by gigantic cannons, Mehmed and his army captured the city in May 1453 . He changed the name of the city to Istanbul, made it the capital of his empire, and established a great mosque there. He encouraged subjects from other parts of the empire to come and populate his great city.

    After defeating the Byzantines, Mehmed's prestige and popularity soared. He led several other successful campaigns and became known as Mehmed the Conqueror. The Ottoman Empire absorbed most of Asia Minor and the Balkans. His troops threatened eastern Europe, Russia, and Italy and his rapid conquests created some tensions in the region. Mehmed's continual wars of conquest undermined his attempts to improve the empire's economy.

    Mehmed used Ottoman power to create a vast empire. He reorganized the government and employed Christians and Jews to administer the conquered lands. Mehmed established criminal and fiscal law codes and promoted the sciences and theology. But Mehmed was a harsh ruler, and after his death, discontented subjects placed his eldest son, Bayezid, on the throne, ignoring his favorite son. They also began a reaction to many of Mehmed's policies. See also Istanbul; Ottoman Empire.

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