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Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire Paperback – April 24, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
In this book, Caroline Finkel offers us a single-volume history of the Ottoman Empire, ranging from its obscure origins to its demise in the 1920s. Though similar overviews have been written before, her goal is to dispel the traditional "rise and fall" approach and to free the empire from its' stereotyping as, in her words, "a theatre of the absurd." Tapping into the enormous wealth of recent scholarly work on the Ottomans, she offers a far more complex and nuanced portrayal of the empire than in most popular accounts - pointing out, for example, that the ranks of the soldiers of the early empire included as many Christians as it did Muslims, and that it was not until well into the empire's decline in the 18th century that the Ottoman sultans began to embrace the previously disused title of caliph.
Yet the book suffers from a relatively narrow focus. Most of the text is dominated by a narrative of high politics, one concentrating on the machinations and maneuvering of the sultans; other elements, such as the complex social and economic structures of the empire, are addressed only in passing. Moreover, Finkel rarely explains the empire in any depth.Read more ›
The only other book that comes close in its readability is Lord Kinross's classic, written in the 1970s. But that was an old-style study, based on ancient legends and old prejudices. Caroline Finkel's book comes from deep knowledge of the Ottoman sources, and for the first time, the long story rings true.
Few empires were more complex and more opaque to the outsider than the Ottoman world. Finkel understands it and she never lets her own opinions get in the way of opening up that world to the reader.
She draws together this long history in a manner that disentangles its complexities, brings its individuals to life, and connects the Ottoman past to the Turkish present. Even with well known episodes, she manages to add something new, often through the deft use of Ottoman sources in a sprightly translation. It is a huge book, but for this reader, never seemed overlong.
There is often one book that will outlast all the others on any given subject, and will define the topic for a generation. Finkel already has a reputation in her academic area of Ottoman studies. The truly remarkable aspect of Osman's Dream is that it is good not just on her speciality, but all the way through, from the 14th to the 20th century. A magnicent achievement.
The book is a political history, with extremely rare forays into matters of culture, religion, ethnicity, art or architecture. We are presented with an endless list of Sultans, viziers, military commanders, battles, treaties and boundaries, and virtually no analysis. For example, we have no discussion of the reasons the early Ottomans were so overwhelmingly successful at expanding the empire. The Ottomans were one of the first middle eastern empires to adopt gunpowder weapons, but Finkel does not discuss this adoption, or the impact it had on early conquests. Indeed, Finkel's discussions of warfare in general is universally vague -- she tells us who won the battles, but not why.
Another problem is that the book gives extremely little notice to more distant Ottoman realms, in North Africa, Egypt, the Hijaz and Syria/Palestine. Near the end, when the Empire begins to fragment, we get some mention of Mehmet Ali [Muhammad Ali] and the sharifs of Mecca. This is extremely cursory, and the subject is abandoned soon after it is taken up.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really nice overview of the political and military history of the Ottoman state, starting from the Tribe of Osman up to the last Sultan and the establishment of the Republic. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Douglas Berry
More than 550 densely filled pages, followed by numerous annexes: Finkel tells the story of almost 700 years of Ottoman Empire in one sitting, with great attention to detail and... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Marc L
GREAT BOOK for everyone who desires some insight and clarification on the history of the Balkans or the modern middle east.Published 6 months ago by Vincent Callahan
I started into the book expecting a reasonably abbreviated summary of this period in our history (world history). Read morePublished 14 months ago by Arthur Worster
It was incredibly readable. A must for anyone who has been or is going to Istanbul.Published 19 months ago by Momo
Very detailed.covers successive phases of the rise and fall of the Ottoman EmpirePublished 19 months ago by Goku43
The book is a history of the Ottoman Empire and the countries involved. It is very informative and went into detail of the countries involved.Published 20 months ago by Sandy Daponde
Having little real knowledge of the Ottoman Empire prior to reading this book, I found it generally quite fascinating - especially prior to our traveling to Turkey. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Chris and Sharon