Overall Chronology

Overall Chronology

I. Ottoman Rule
1 January 1516 to 2 November 1917


"Jerusalem." Hand-colored lithograph, Nathaniel Currier publishing house, New York, 1846.

Popular graphic art print filing series, Library of Congress

In 1516, the Ottoman Empire—founded by Turkic tribesmen in Anatolia, who then established their capital on the ruins of the Byzantine Empire in Constantinople—moved against the Mamluk rule in the Levant. The Ottoman forces defeated the Mamluk armies and conquered Bilad al-Sham, including Palestine. This marked the beginning of four centuries of nearly uninterrupted Ottoman rule over Palestine. This rule was marked by the integration of local elites into networks of state power (particularly taxation) as well as the state’s establishment and support of religious and charitable institutions.

Sovereignty over Jerusalem held special significance for the Muslim empire, which early on embarked on projects to rebuild the city’s walls and to renovate the Dome of the Rock (1537-1540). At the same time, the Ottomans acknowledged Christian and Jewish rights to sites of religious significance, managing a complex arrangement of privileges and access rights to these sites through a system known as the status quo. These regulations and understandings were based on accumulated customary practice and included rights acknowledged by earlier Muslim rulers and the decisions of Muslim courts in support of these rights, as well as Christian and Jewish commitments to adhere to customary practice.

Yet despite relative calm in religious matters, Palestine was also periodically the site of local, regional, and global political struggles. In the early eighteenth century, for example, a local uprising against the Ottoman governor of Jerusalem—known as the naqib al-ashraf rebellion—was triggered by repressive policies and taxation. Later in the eighteenth century, local notable Zahir al-Umar al-Zaydani carved out a sphere of local autonomy in the Galilee. In 1799, French forces led by Napoleon Bonaparte, having recently invaded Egypt, stormed up the coast of Palestine, conquering Gaza, Jaffa, and Haifa before launching an unsuccessful siege of Acre. Another locally led uprising against taxation in 1825 was put down by the Ottomans shortly before Ibrahim Pasha, the son of Egypt’s ruler Muhammad Ali Pasha, launched another invasion of Palestine from the south in 1831. For the next ten years, Palestine (and the greater Levant) was the site of struggle between the Ottoman Empire, its rebellious Egyptian vassal, and local Palestinian factions before an alliance of empires—Ottoman, British, Russian, and Austrian—managed to expel the Egyptian army.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, a number of processes unfolding both regionally and globally shaped the development of events in Palestine. Three processes had particular impact: a series of Ottoman administrative reforms that sought to fundamentally reshape the relationship between the state and its subjects; global dynamics that gave European powers increasing influence over a weakening Ottoman state; and the rise of nationalist movements, including the development of Zionism in Europe and Arab and Palestinian nationalisms in the Ottoman Empire's Arab provinces.

The year 1876 marked the beginning of both the reign of Sultan Abd al-Hamid II and the First Constitutional Era, launched with the promulgation of the Ottoman Basic Law. The Basic Law sought to reconfigure the relationship between the Ottoman state and its subjects by crafting a single Ottoman political identity applied equally to all the empire's subjects. It also established an Ottoman parliament, in which Yusuf Diya-uddin Pasha al-Khalidi represented Jerusalem. After just two years, however, Sultan Abd al-Hamid II suspended the Basic Law, ending the First Constitutional Era. Over the next thirty years, Abd al-Hamid ruled as an absolute monarch, presiding over some successful projects of modernization (e.g., bureaucratic reforms, the establishment of a population registry, construction of the Hijaz railway) as the empire lost control over numerous territories (particularly in Europe) to a combination of local independence movements and foreign powers.

Beyond these losses, foreign powers exploited the Ottoman Empire's relative weakness to impose economic and political concessions upon it under the framework of capitulations, which gave foreign subjects in Ottoman lands privileged status—exempting them, for example, from taxation or local prosecution. Although capitulations had been in place since the Ottoman conquest of the Levant, European powers expanded their privileges as the empire faltered and extended them to local clients. The Zionist movement and its European supporters were no exception, exploiting this system to foster Jewish immigration to Palestine despite local opposition.

Although Palestine did not exist as an administrative unit in this period, the term was used to describe a geographic area. After administrative reorganizations in the 1870s and 1880s, the area that later became Mandatory Palestine was divided into three administrative units: the district of Jerusalem, governed directly by Istanbul, and the two northern districts of Nablus and Acre, attached to the province of Beirut. According to Ottoman records, the population of these three districts in 1878 was 462,465: 403,795 Muslims, 43,659 Christians, and 15,011 Jews. (This figure did not include some 10,000 Jews with foreign citizenship, several thousand Bedouin, and foreign Christian residents of Palestine.) Jaffa and Nablus were Palestine's largest and most economically vibrant cities, while most Jews in Palestine—observant orthodox communities minimally engaged with Zionism—lived in four cities of religious importance: Jerusalem, Hebron, Safad, and Tiberias. 

The Zionism movement, meanwhile, was taking shape in Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe. Motivated by ideological currents of nationalism and the oppressive conditions facing European Jewry, Zionist thinkers sought the acquisition of territory where a Jewish sovereign state could be established as the means of national fulfillment and salvation. Palestine seemed the logical and optimal place because it was the site of Jewish origin, though some early Zionists were willing to consider alternative sites.

The first Zionist colony in Palestine was founded in 1878, and the first wave of Zionist immigrants arrived in 1882. European Jewish millionaires Baron Edmond de Rothschild and Baron Maurice de Hirsch funded early colonization efforts, while Theodor Herzl, a Hungarian Jew, published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), a treatise integrating prevailing Zionist ideas and outlining a program of implementation. In 1897, Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, which established the Zionist Organization, the institutional framework of subsequent Zionist diplomacy and operations. In 1901, the Jewish National Fund was founded to acquire land in Palestine for further Jewish colonies. By 1914, some thirty Zionist colonies had been set up, and the total Jewish population in Palestine had reached about sixty thousand, more than half of them recent immigrants.

At the same time, Arab and Palestinian nationalist sentiments were emerging in Palestine in conjunction with growing anti-Zionism. In 1908, the Young Turk Revolution led to the restoration of the Ottoman constitution and ushered in an era of press freedoms. Delegates from Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nablus, Acre, and Gaza were elected to the reconstituted Ottoman Parliament in 1908 and 1912, and a Palestinian press blossomed, articulating growing concern about Zionist designs on Palestine and giving voice to various visions of Arab, Ottoman, Greater Syrian, and Palestinian nationalisms. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 and the occupation of Palestine by British forces in 1917 curtailed many of the possibilities envisioned by Palestinians, wrested from them any control of their political future, and, with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, ensured that the Zionist project would proceed against the will of the indigenous Palestinian population. 



Selected Bibliography

Büssow, Johann. Hamidian Palestine: Politics and Society in the District of Jerusalem, 1872–1908. Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2011.

Campos, Michelle. Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010.

Doumani, Beshara. Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700–1900. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

Schölch, Alexander. Palestine in Transformation, 1856–1882: Studies in Social, Economic, and Political Development. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1993.

Singer, Amy. Palestinian Peasants and Ottoman Officials: Rural Administration around Sixteenth-Century Jerusalem. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994

Overall Chronology
E.g., 2020/08/11
E.g., 2020/08/11
Event Date Subject
Ottoman Conquest of the Levant 1516
The Naqib al-Ashraf Rebellion 1703 - 1705
Acre Under Zahir al-Umar al-Zaydani 1746 - 1775
Acre Under Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar 1775 - 1804
Napoleon Bonaparte in Palestine February 1799 - May 1799
Tax Revolt in Jerusalem 1825 - 1826
Ibrahim Pasha in Palestine October 1831 - 1834
Uprising Against Egyptian Rule April 1834 - August 1834
International Intervention against Egyptian Rule in the Levant 1839 - 1841
Establishment of European and American Consulates in Jerusalem 1839 - 1862
The Tanzimat Are Issued 18 February 1856
Ottoman Land Code, 7 Ramadan 1274 21 April 1858
Ottoman Law of the Provinces: Administrative Reorganization in Syria and Palestine 7 November 1864
Law Concerning Land Purchase by non-Ottoman Subjects, 7 Safar 1284 10 June 1867
Ottoman Education Law Is Passed 20 September 1869
Jerusalem Area Designated as a Sanjaq 1872
Sultan Abd al-Hamid II and the Ottoman Constitution 31 August 1876 - 19 December 1876
Jerusalem Representation in the Ottoman General Assembly 19 March 1877
Establishment of the First Zionist Colony in Palestine 1878 - 1883
Jewish Nationalism in Eastern Europe 1881 - 1884
Settlement of European Jews in the Ottoman Empire November 1881
Great Britain Invades and Occupies Egypt 1882
First Wave of Jewish Immigration to Palestine 1882 - 1903
Palestinian-Zionist Dispute 1886
European Powers Press the Ottomans on Jewish Immigration 1888
Administrative Reorganization in Syria and Palestine March 1888
Jerusalem Notables Oppose Jewish Immigration June 1891
Establishment of the Jewish Colonization Association September 1891
Building of the Jaffa-Jerusalem Railroad Line 1892
The Ottomans and Sale of Land to Jews in Palestine November 1892 - 1893
Publication of The State of the Jews by Theodor Herzl February 1896
Local Control of Zionist Land Purchases 1897
1st Zionist Congress Is Held in Basel 29 August 1897 - 31 August 1897
2nd Zionist Congress Is Held in Basel 28 August 1898 - 31 August 1898
Herzl Correspondence with Jerusalem Mayor 19 March 1899
3rd Zionist Congress Is Held in Basel 15 August 1899 - 18 August 1899
4th Zionist Congress Is Held in London 13 August 1900 - 16 August 1900
New Ottoman Regulations on Jewish Land Purchase 9 January 1901
Tiberias Palestinians Protest Jewish Land Acquisition July 1901
France and the Ottoman Empire Sign the Mytilene Agreements 2 November 1901 - 10 November 1901
5th Zionist Congress Is Held in Basel 26 December 1901 - 30 December 1901
Establishment of the Anglo-Palestine Company 1903
6th Zionist Congress Is Held in Basel 23 August 1903 - 28 August 1903
2nd Wave of Jewish Immigration to Palestine 1904 - 1914
Theodor Herzl Dies; Replaced by David Wolffsohn 3 July 1904
Tiberias Palestinians Protest Again August 1904 - September 1904
Publication of The Awakening of the Arab Nation in Asiatic Turkey by Najib Azoury January 1905
Completion of the Hijaz Railway 1905
7th Zionist Congress Is Held in Basel 27 July 1905 - 2 August 1905
Establishment of the Rawdat al-Ma'arif al-Wataniyya al-'Uthmaniyya al-Islamiyya in Jerusalem 1906
8th Zionist Congress Is Held in the Hague 14 July 1907 - 21 July 1907
Zionist Evasion of Ottoman Regulations August 1907
Zionist-Palestinian Violence Breaks out in Jaffa March 1908
Young Turk Revolution July 1908 - December 1908
Palestinians Participate in the Establishment of Arab Nationalist Societies September 1908 - 1912
Establishment of Palestinian Newspaper al-Karmel in Haifa December 1908
Foundation of Tel Aviv 1909
Foundation of the Zionist Paramilitary Group Hashomer 1909
Establishment of al-Madrasa al-Dusturiyya, Jerusalem 1909
Palestinian-Zionist Clashes Near Nazareth February 1909 - April 1909
Ottoman Parliamentarians Protest Zionist Objectives July 1909
9th Zionist Congress Is Held in Hamburg 26 December 1909 - 30 December 1909
Arab Ottoman Parliamentarians Address Minister of Interior June 1910
Publication of Zionism by Najib Nassar 1911
Establishment of Filastin Newspaper in Jaffa January 1911
First Major Debate on Zionism in Ottoman Parliament March 1911 - May 1911
10th Zionist Congress Is Held in Basel 9 August 1911 - 15 August 1911
European Powers Renew Pressure on the Ottomans to Ease Zionist Land Acquisition in Palestine January 1912
Ottoman Parliamentary Elections Are Held April 1912 - August 1912
Provisional Law Concerning the Right of Certain Corporate Bodies to Own Immovable Property, 22 Rabi' al-awwal 1331 1 March 1913
Provisional Law of Disposal of Immovable Property, 5 Jumada al-ula 1331 12 April 1913
The Arab Congress Meets in Paris 17 June 1913 - 24 June 1913
11th Zionist Congress Meets in Vienna 2 September 1913 - 9 September 1913
Railway Lines in Palestine 1914
World War 1, The Ottomans Enter the War 1 August 1914 - February 1915
Hussein-McMahon Correspondence 14 July 1915 - 30 March 1916
Jemal Pasha Orders the Public Hanging of Arab Nationalists from the Levant 21 August 1915 - 6 May 1916
Signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement 16 May 1916
Start of the Arab Revolt June 1916
British Palestine Campaign March 1917 - September 1918
Russian Revolution Brings the Bolsheviks to Power 8 March 1917 - 8 November 1917