Gülpinar Akbulut, Siyasi Cografya Açisindan Türkiye'de Demiryolu Ulas imi [Railway Transport in Turkey from a Political Geography Perspective], Ani Yayincilik, Ankara (2010), 306 pp., US$25.00.
This book is a history of the construction and operation of railways in the Ottoman Empire and in the Republic of Turkey, including an analysis of the most recent developments and future perspectives. The book is divided into two main parts; the first part is a general overview of the political and, to a lesser degree, economic aspects of the development of railways from the emergence of this transport technology until nowadays; the second, focusing on the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, is itself divided in three sections. The first section contains an analysis of political and economic aspects and consequences of railway construction and operation in the domains of the Ottoman dynasty. The Ottoman Balkans and Arab lands are covered, but Anatolia (Asia Minor) is dealt with in greater detail. The next section dwells on the dynamics that shaped the development and use of railways after the creation of the Turkish Republic, from 1923 until today. The final section departs from the historical perspective of the book, offering a brief insight into the future perspectives of railway transport in Turkey, with a special emphasis on the international transport corridors.
Akbulut's study provides a detailed, comprehensive account of the history, present and possible future of railway construction and operation in Turkey. She approaches her subject from the perspective of political geography. Her narrative is based on a vast bibliography rather than on original research, and provides a great amount of data in a very accessible way. The book is a comprehensive overview, structured and written in a way that makes it particularly useful for teaching purposes, though it includes a few long-discredited interpretations of European history (such as considering geographic discoveries, Renaissance, the Reform movements, Enlightenment and the French Revolution as stages completed by European countries that thus reached the Industrial Revolution, p. 10).
The first section is valuable particularly for providing a synthesis of the development of railways in which minor powers and, in the recent period, the so-called emerging countries of the whole world feature prominently. This strength is somewhat reduced by the fact that the author systematically uses a binary division of countries into coloniser states (sömürgeci devletler) and the colonised when dealing with the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a division which is even more problematic in Turkish, as the same word can also mean 'exploiters' and 'exploited'. …