1. The Ottoman Empire was once a superpower, ruling the Middle East and much of northern Africa and eastern Europe.
2. By the end of the 1800s the empire was in decline, shrinking in size and subject to internal problems and instability.
3. There were attempts at political reform, such as the Young Turk rebellion, though they did not arrest the decline.
4. Despite its 19th century problems, the Ottomans occupied a critical position, controlling access to the Black Sea.
5. The European powers showed a strong interest in the future of the empire, particularly Germany, which invested in the Berlin-Baghdad railway that passed through Ottoman territory.