A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire

A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire

A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire

A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire

Synopsis

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire straddled three continents and encompassed extraordinary ethnic and cultural diversity among the estimated thirty million people living within its borders. It was perhaps the most cosmopolitan state in the world--and possibly the most volatile. A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire now gives scholars and general readers a concise history of the late empire between 1789 and 1918, turbulent years marked by incredible social change.


Moving past standard treatments of the subject, M. Sükrü Hanioglu emphasizes broad historical trends and processes more than single events. He examines the imperial struggle to centralize amid powerful opposition from local rulers, nationalist and other groups, and foreign powers. He looks closely at the socioeconomic changes this struggle wrought and addresses the Ottoman response to the challenges of modernity. Hanioglu shows how this history is not only essential to comprehending modern Turkey, but is integral to the histories of Europe and the world. He brings Ottoman society marvelously to life in all its facets--cultural, diplomatic, intellectual, literary, military, and political--and he mines imperial archives and other documents from the period to describe it as it actually was, not as it has been portrayed in postimperial nationalist narratives. A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the legacy left in this empire's ruins--a legacy the world still grapples with today.

Excerpt

This brief history aspires to cover a period of almost one-and-a-half centuries, during which enormous changes took place over a vast geographic area. As if this were not ambitious enough, the need to place the events of 1798–1918 in context requires a description of Ottoman reality in the late eighteenth century by way of background, as well as some discussion of the legacy bequeathed by the late Ottoman Empire to the new nation-states that emerged on its ruins. The compression of so much history into a concise book naturally necessitates certain choices and omissions, as well as the privileging of trends and analyses over facts and figures. The general nature of this work thus precludes a thorough discussion of any particular issue or field. Specialists—whether of cultural, diplomatic, intellectual, literary, military, political, social, or economic history—may thus be somewhat disappointed with the result. But they may find some compensation in the attempt to integrate the advances made in multiple subfields into a general framework that offers a new approach to the study of late Ottoman history.

There is also a more ideological problem. The usual human failure to take account of historical contingency has been reinforced by prevalent nationalist narratives in the Ottoman successor states, producing a conception of late Ottoman history that is exceedingly teleological. It is often assumed that the emergence of the Republic of Turkey in Anatolia, and of the neighboring nation-states in the surrounding territories of the disintegrated Ottoman polity, was the inevitable and predictable result of the decline of a sprawling multinational empire. This retrospective approach to late Ottoman history has become, it seems to me, a major obstacle to viewing the period as it really was. In particular, it distorts key historical processes by pulling them out of their historical context and placing them in a contrived chain of events leading up to the familiar post-imperial world. The point is not to deny the significance of the link between the successor nation-states— especially Turkey—and their Ottoman past; on the contrary, retrieving the historical roots of modern phenomena is a vital and worthy undertaking. But the attempt to frame late Ottoman history in a narrative of imperial collapse to the relentless drumbeat of the march of progress—usually . . .

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