From Publishers Weekly
The story of the Ottoman Empire's slaughter of one million Armenians in 1915—a genocide still officially denied by the 83-year-old modern Turkish state—has been dominated by two historiographical traditions. One pictures an embattled empire, increasingly truncated by rapacious Western powers and internal nationalist movements. The other details the attempted eradication of an entire people, amid persecutions of other minorities. Part of historian Akçam's task in this clear, well-researched work is to reconcile these mutually exclusive narratives. He roots his history in an unsparing analysis of Turkish responsibility for one of the most notorious atrocities of a singularly violent century, in internal and international rivalries, and an exclusionary system of religious (Muslim) and ethnic (Turkish) superiority. With novel use of key Ottoman, European and American sources, he reveals that the mass killing of Armenians was no byproduct of WWI, as long claimed in Turkey, but a deliberate, centralized program of state-sponsored extermination. As Turkey now petitions to join the European Union, and ethnic cleansing and collective punishment continues to threaten entire populations around the globe, this groundbreaking and lucid account by a prominent Turkish scholar speaks forcefully to all. (Oct.)
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Akcam has attracted considerable attention for being one of the first Turkish intellectuals to devote his career to studying the systematic slaughter of one million Armenians during World War I. For this reason, he has been harshly criticized by those who would deny the existence of an Armenian genocide. Akcam's earlier work, From Empire to Republic
(2004), contextualized the genocide within a climate of Turkish nationalism and attempted to provide the basis for a Turkish national conversation about trauma and culpability. Although essentially similar to that book in its analysis of Turkish culpability, his latest study is considerably broader in historical scope. He seeks to harmonize the conventional narrative of the collapsing Ottoman Empire with victims' perspectives of Turkish dominance over minorities. He does this by showing a state--rent by internal power struggles and terrified of being partitioned--that pursues genocide as a way of avoiding catastrophic collapse. Clearly a companion to Peter Balakian's Burning
Tigris (2003) and other accounts of the genocide, this book also deserves to be read in concert with recent works analyzing the politics of genocide and national shame in Germany. Brendan DriscollCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved