I have enjoyed several historical books of late, from the Greeks to the Persians and so I looked forward to “The Ottomans” by Marc David Baer. The intention of the book is to reposition the Ottoman Empire in our minds and highlight how they impacted history with a less biased perspective.
I found the narrative a little disrupted, regularly the author delves off into other histories or shares in more detail on a topic than felt necessary. Those who love historical nuggets about the time, will enjoy them but I found I had to keep clarifying the thread I was following. Perhaps I should have been less surprised by the repetitive nature of history, the regular murder of family members and desire for political powers, it’s brutal. This obviously occurred in other empires and it is the choice of the writer the amount of emphasis and detail to share, and this one had a little too much for me.
Despite all this, the journey is fascinating, it shows the way the Ottoman empire weaves into so much history and how they contributed hugely to where we are today, in terms of art, literature, language, music and much more. The book runs right up to modern day and clarifies how some of what contributes to the Middle East being where it is now.
Having looked for books that covered this period, in this one, I found rather a rarity and, if you are looking for a detailed and well-written overview, this one is worth reading. It’s a three out of five on the enJOYment scale.
I received a complimentary copy of the book from Perseus Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the back cover:
This major new history of the Ottoman dynasty reveals a diverse empire that straddled East and West.
The Ottoman Empire has long been depicted as the Islamic, Asian antithesis of the Christian, European West. But the reality was starkly different: the Ottomans’ multiethnic, multilingual, and multireligious domain reached deep into Europe’s heart. Indeed, the Ottoman rulers saw themselves as the new Romans. Recounting the Ottomans’ remarkable rise from a frontier principality to a world empire, historian Marc David Baer traces their debts to their Turkish, Mongolian, Islamic, and Byzantine heritage. The Ottomans pioneered religious toleration even as they used religious conversion to integrate conquered peoples. But in the nineteenth century, they embraced exclusivity, leading to ethnic cleansing, genocide, and the empire’s demise after the First World War.
The Ottomans vividly reveals the dynasty’s full history and its enduring impact on Europe and the world.