The Tanzimat describes the era of reformation of the Ottoman Empire that started in 1839 and ended in 1876. Non-Muslims and non-Turks were integrated into society and given equality throughout the empire. Established in 1299, the Ottoman Empire lasted until 1923. The Empire used its capital city of Constantinople and its lands throughout the Mediterranean to control interactions between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres for over 600 years.
At this time, the Ottoman Empire was losing power and feared it might not have the force necessary to defend itself against invasion. During the Tanzimat period, secular laws replaced religious laws. Prominent reformers of the time meant to enact successful European laws, give equality to all citizens and put an end to corruption. The leaders made necessary inroads with other countries throughout Europe.
The Turkish finance system and the criminal and civil codes were reformed in the image of the French model. Slavery was abolished while education and health care were promoted. The Rescript of the Rose Chamber was the first major reform during the Tanzimat period. It was aimed at enforcing the rule of law for all citizens and making every citizen equal under the law.
Religious freedom was finally brought about with The Reform Edict of 1956. Among other things, this edict disallowed the forced conversion to Islam. Unfortunately, with so many officials in so many different regions, the laws were interpreted and carried out in a variety of ways. Some officials saw the edicts as being nothing but words that they were not required to follow.
These reforms brought the Ottoman Empire closer to Westernization and centralized government power. It also had the desired effect of increasing the European support of the Ottoman Empire. In 1876, the Ottoman constitution was implemented to decrease the power of the Sultan. This officially ends the Tanzimat period and begins the First Constitutional Era.