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Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire [Paperback]

by Jason Goodwin
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1, 2003 0312420668 978-0312420666 0
For six hundred years, the Ottoman Empire swelled and declined. Islamic, martial, civilized, and tolerant, it advanced in three centuries from the dusty foothills of Anatolia to rule on the Danube and the Nile; at its height, Indian rajahs and the kings of France beseeched the empire's aid. In its last three hundred years the empire seemed ready to collapse, a prodigy of survival and decay. In this striking evocation of the empire's power, Jason Goodwin explores how the Ottomans rose and how, against all odds, they lingered on. In doing so, he also offers a long look back to the origins of problems that plague present-day Kosovars and Serbs.

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Editorial Reviews Review

Jason Goodwin, a young English journalist, writes history as if it were today's breaking news, and with Lords of the Horizon, he delivers an anecdote-filled and breezy account of the long, troubled career of the Ottoman Empire. That empire endured for nearly 600 years and embraced not only a large territory--stretching, at one point, from the border of Iran to the gates of Vienna--but also hundreds of ethnic groups and three dozen nations. United under the banner of a tolerant form of Islam, the Ottoman Turks forged a culture that, Goodwin writes, "was such a prodigy of pep, such a miracle of human ingenuity, that contemporaries felt it was helped into being by powers not quite human--diabolical or divine, depending on their point of view."

Drawing on memoirs by European visitors as well as standard histories of the era, Goodwin traces the Ottoman Empire from its origins in the 14th-century collapse of the Byzantine state to its centuries-long decline and final collapse at the end of World War I. Along the way, he writes of the Ottomans' addiction to wealth (and to hiding their gold in fabulous hoards), the pleasure they took in holding picnics in their lush cemeteries, and the prowess of their elite military both in battle and in organized crime. ("The janissaries were magnificent extortionists," Goodwin notes. "People paid them not to burn their homes and business, then they paid them to come and put the fires out.") Full of vivid detail, Goodwin's narrative makes for an enjoyable introduction to this historically influential, but little understood, culture. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In this elegant work, British author Goodwin (On Foot to the Golden Horn) combines deft historical summary with the buoyant prose and idiosyncratic focus of the best travel writing. The combination enables him to take the full measure of a realm riddled with paradox. The Ottoman Empire was a Turkish empire most of whose shock troops were Balkan Slavs; a bellicose state that expanded by war, it often governed its conquests with a light handAa necessary approach given the many cultures and nationalities that fell under Ottoman rule. Ottoman society at its best was civilized and tolerant, observes Goodwin. The Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 were warmly received in Salonika, Constantinople, Belgrade and Sofia. While war and superstition ruled Christian Europe, the Islamic Ottoman Empire thrived and glittered with mathematical, architectural and artistic accomplishment. Goodwin is marvelous at describing how, for three hundred years before its final collapse after WWI, the empire survived even though it was perpetually on the verge of collapse. He attributes the calcified empire's decline not only to corruption and the rise of France and Russia but to the Turks' prideful ignorance of the West, a vanity that eventually deprived the empire of the fruits of modernity. As good as Goodwin is at blending political, cultural and military affairs, his work is distinguished by stylish writing and a sharp eye for just the right anecdote. His epilogue, which is built around the fate of the empire's famous stray dogs, is at once amusing and strangely, beautifully moving. Illustrations.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312420668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312420666
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #286,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jason Goodwin is a best selling novelist, traveller and historian. His first book was all about tea, and his second described a 2000 mile walk from Gdansk, on the Baltic, to Istanbul, on the eastern Mediterranean. That turned into an obsession with the ancient capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. He thinks that the best way to learn about a subject is to write about it, so he wrote Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire, described by Jan Morris as 'a high-octane work of art'. Time Out called it 'perhaps the most readable history ever written on anything' and the New York Times Book Review generously chose it as their cover story - with the result that it sold 50,000 copies in hardback in the first week.
His Istanbul-based series of historical thrillers began with The Janissary Tree, winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Novel. His novels have been translated into over 40 languages; the latest is The Baklava Club.
Jason lives in England with his family and a dog called Bridie.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Vague Semi-history December 18, 1999
While I don't regret buying or reading this book, potential buyers should be aware of its limitations. Though subtitled "A History of the Ottoman Empire" it is not really a history, and is about only a small part of the Empire. The Ottoman Empire stretched across Egypt and North Africa, included all of Near Asia stretching into Persia, and Greece and the Balkans in Europe. In 326 pages, however, this book contains not thirty paragraphs dealing with Africa or Asia. It's essentially about Ottoman rule of Constantinople and Europe. (The chapter on "Cities" mentions only Constantinople, Sarajevo and Belgrade.) Rather than a history, this book is really an allusion to the history of the Ottomans. There is no narrative thread, except here and there. Essential dates are omitted, or available only in the Chronology in the back. Historical characters are mentioned, but not introduced. Many interesting references are made without specifying the names of parties involved, or the dates. The battle of Manzikert, for instance, which set the stage for the decline of Byzantium and the ultimate rise of the Ottomans, is mentioned once, its location not given, and the two sides not specified. The overwhelming impression given by the style is vagueness. It abounds with pretty paragraphs, but lacks specifics. Assertions are made so ambiguously that one would not feel confident citing facts from this book without checking another reference first. There is a tendency to cite examples or give quotes separated by centuries, as though everything stayed the same throughout. Sometimes this is true, but we would object strongly if a paragraph on the women of London had but three examples given; one from the 1st century, one from the 12th century, and one from 1787.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It was a delight to read this book even though the topic was so familiar. One had to contend mostly with very narrow and stuffy academic treatments or blatant propaganda until recently if one wanted to just learn, as an ordinary interested person, about one of the last great empires, Ottomans. Even as a student of recent Ottoman history, much new perspective was gained. It is easy to read and enjoyable. It captures the colors, sounds, smells and tastes of this fascinating empire, its times and its adventures, effecting so much of what happens around us even today. How the Ottomans managed such a huge, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society for such a long time is also a very timely and relevant topic given the global political developments following the end of the Cold War. There are some quirks of style such as notes that lead to no interesting or related facts but seem to go tangential and comments that seem to just hang in the air, but it did not distract from the flow of the story at all. Readers without any background in the topic or region may feel lost a little at times as some of the reviews suggest. Historical accuracy and references are excellent, especially for a self-proclaimed travel-writer. It was especially appreciated by this reader that a strict chronological story line was not followed, which distinguishes it from other "history" books. Mr. Goodwin puts real people and events and motives behind the story, which has understandably frustrated those readers who would like to see Turks or Ottomans as pure evil and cause of everything ever done wrong. Mr. Goodwin does not give them much satisfaction. The Ottomans represented for a long while an alternate path to civilzation, if only world did not have boundries. Read more ›
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect, but very good May 18, 2006
As has already been mentioned, "Lords of the Horizons" is not a true-blue history book. The history is confined mostly to its beginning and end; the core of the book is a lengthy, wide-ranging meditation on Ottoman culture at its peak, based largely on travel accounts and primary sources. I'm not surprised that Goodwin's other work includes travel literature; a travelogue is exactly what most of the book reads like.

Most of the book has no real chronological order; one can either see this as disorganized, or as intending to provide a kind of snapshot of Ottoman society. I prefer the latter; its jumpy nature is more than made up for by the author's superb language use: elegant and evocative, without being florid. I do agree however that the Armenian genocide, if not excused is indeed appallingly absent, and one wonders if he was just trying to speed things along by glossing over it.

All told though, I found this book to be a pleasure to read; I think it's something you're going to want to take some real time with, like a long country walk.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining December 28, 2000
Goodwin writes "An Ottoman is made, not born ..." and much of the Lords of the Horizon explores just what made one an Ottoman. Interesting tidbits of Ottoman culture and society form the bulk of the text along with numerous anecdotes of "east meets west" through Ottoman eyes. The book is loosly organized along themes: warfare, cities, conquest - these themes following a general chronology of the rise, expansion and eventual collapse of the empire. Its primary strength is Goodwin's success in explaining the complex nature of Ottman rule - how major differences in language, race and religion were overcome and fused together for over 500 years, making the Ottoman empire a force to be reckoned with for most of its history. The book reads like fiction with its numerous personalized tales of Ottoman rulers and pivotal events, which is both a strength and a weakness. For those interested in a serious, scholarly history, I would look elsewhere. However, if you are interested in a light but informative and well written synopsis on the Ottoman empire, this is the book for you.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is not history, but the author's stream of consciousness
This book is really not a work of history, the narrative is poorly organized. It lacks a major theme, and reads more like the author's unedited stream of consciousness.
Published 18 days ago by hsw27
3.0 out of 5 stars Lords of the Horizons
Jason Goodwin's argues in Lords of the Horizons: A history of the Ottoman Empire that the Ottoman empire grew through militarism and strong central organization but declined into a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Zachary W. Schulz
1.0 out of 5 stars Deeply Disappointing
I was excited to read a breezy history of the Ottoman Empire. There is not a lot out there. This is not really history. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Robert Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars Lords of the Horizons: A History of the ottoman Empire
This is a most informative and excellent book. It was recommended by the tour group I travelled with when I went to Turkey. So glad it was available at a very reasonable price.
Published 15 months ago by Susan M. Marsh
5.0 out of 5 stars Jason Goodwin excels once again
The Ottomans were a fascinating culture, having a highly ceremonial culture and governance structure worthy of being called "Byzantine" although of course as a society,... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Christopher Armstrong-Stevenson
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly written history
I had already read two of Goodwin's novels, which are set in Ottoman history and was immediately reminded of his novelistic prowess. This is a wonderful read. Read more
Published 15 months ago by argwrites
2.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but Anecdotal; 2.5 Stars
A well written but highly impressionistic work on the Ottoman Empire. While very roughly chronologically organized, this is hardly a conventional narrative history but rather a... Read more
Published on March 20, 2012 by R. Albin
5.0 out of 5 stars The keys to Middle Eastern conflicts then and now.
One can not possibly understand political currents of change in the Middle East without knowing the historical developments leading to the devolution of the Ottoman Empire and the... Read more
Published on February 15, 2012 by Denton Syzygy
2.0 out of 5 stars Orientalism and Cliche Views of the "East"
I bought this book because I had read all the reviews which complained about it not strictly being a "history" of the Ottomans. Read more
Published on January 28, 2012 by Khateeb88
1.0 out of 5 stars Annoying as h....
I bought this book on the strength of a glowing and lengthy review by the respected Johns Hopkins University Professor Fouad Ajami in the New York Times of 2 May 1999. Read more
Published on December 23, 2011 by 'German Boy'
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