Mom! They're making me think!
I ask the internets for their opinion. Got this from one of my students, and thought I'd throw it open:
Do you think the Ottoman Empire would have been able to make a foothold in Western Europe if they consistenly didn't have to defend themselves to the East against the Mongols/Persians or maybe they had a hard time because European nations would form coalitions against them, in fear of a global empire? I think if they had been safe on their Eastern borders for much of the 14-17th centuries that they would have been able to expand into Western Europe especially during a time of political instability such as the Reformation. If yes, then do you believe that could have had major consequences in the centuries thereafter and do you think that could have changed the result of World War I where they were completely erased? I'm no expert on this and that is just an educated guess by me, but I was wondering if you could speculate with me because I find the vast empire of the Ottomans an intriguing and relatively unknown society in the sense that you never really ever hear about them compared to other great historical empires...
My initial impulse is to say that the Ottoman Turks did make the inroads that they made precisely for the reasons the student states -- and were stopped by many of those reasons, as far as westward conquest is concerned. But I really don't know enough about what was going on on the eastern borders. Anyone?