MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS Revolutions and Constitutionalism in the Ottoman Empire and Iran, by Nader Sohrabi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 456 pages. $78.
To put it bluntly and succinctly, Nader Sohrabi's book is an impressive tour-de-force of sociological analysis and historical contextualization. If scholarship is the creation of innovative knowledge, Sohrabi has rendered a major contribution to a number of fields. His work is a mammoth collection of new material and a reconstruction of an important phase of late Ottoman and Iranian histories. This study is a careful and objective treatment and analysis of a highly underworked and to some extent controversial subject. Given the usual treatment of this topic by Turkish, Iranian, and other scholars, Sohrabi's study is original, refreshing, balanced, and analytical.
What strikes the reader most about the book is its exceptional analytical quality. This is not an austere historical narrative writ ten in a dry and dull fashion, but a highly analytical study aiming to situate the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 - one of the major political developments of the early 20th century and a topic of importance not only for Turkey, but also for all the territories in Europe, Asia, and Africa that formed part of the Ottoman empire at that time - within the larger sociological context of revolutions. Sociologists who work on revolutions will benefit immensely from this work and especially from its rich and original theoretical discussion.
The study is also revolutionary in that it investigates the importance of two major revolutions (i.e., 1905-1906 Iranian and 1908 Young Turk Revolutions) generally overlooked by major theoreticians such as Theda Skocpol and Charles Tilly. Furthermore, basing itself upon meticulous archival research, the work reinterprets important aspects of late Ottoman history and society. For instance, it reconstructs the so-called March 31 Incident (the counterrevolution of 1909) in a way that helps the reader understand the real causes of this event. The reader will learn much more about the counterrevolution and its roots and consequences from two chapters here [Chapters 4 and 5] than from the standard book on the subject, namely Sina Aksin's 31 Mart Olayi (1970; 3rd edition 1994). …