British Foreign Policy 1815-65

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A Sipahi - referred to during the Crimean War as a "spahi" was a feudal cavalryman of the Ottoman Empire whose status was similar to that of a medieval knight in Europe. The word 'sipahi' derives from the Persian for "cavalryman".

A sipahi was the holder of a 'timar' or fief, granted directly by the Ottoman sultan and was entitled to all of the income from it in return for military service. The peasants on the land were later attached to the land and became serfs.

The sipahis provided the bulk of the Ottoman army until about the mid-16th century, after which they gradually supplanted by the Janissaries, an elite corps comprising infantrymen paid regular salaries by the sultanate.

This change partially resulted from the increased use of firearms, which made cavalry less important, and partly from the need to maintain a regular standing army. The sipahis were completely discredited during the War of Greek independence (1821-32), and the timar system was officially abolished in 1831 by Sultan Mahmud II as part of his program to create a modern Western-style army.

However, during the Crimean War, these soldiers were still in existence but used by the French army.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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