Military Recruitment c. 1500


Map Code: Ax01028

The major centres of Islamic power in the 15th and 16th centuries all drew heavily on slave and mercenary recruitment to their armies. This was, in part, a recognition of fighting qualities, but also an attempt to thwart the development of rival power bases. This strategy sometimes backfired; the Mamluks in Egypt, originally Circassian slave soldiers from the Caucasus, overthrew their masters and founded their own ruling dynasty in Egypt (1263–1517). The Safavids of Iran used both Circassians and Turkic tribesmen as ghazis (shock troops) to raid their enemies, while the sultanates (such as Golconda) of central India prized their Yemeni Al-Qadi fighters. Moorish Spain sourced its soldiery from the Atlas Mountains, terming them ‘Tangerines’ after their port of embarkation. But the Ottomans were the most systematic, recruiting from their European territories, often as children, their elite slave soldiers, the janissaries, through devshirme (‘blood tax’).

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