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A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility Hardcover – November 14, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0805079326 ISBN-10: 0805079327 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; First Edition edition (November 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805079327
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805079326
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,498,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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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From Booklist

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 Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rudyard on January 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The reviews I read seem very partisan. I can appreciate a bias in Akcam's writing: the Armenian seizure of the Banc Ottoman and its effect on public opinion in Constantinople get very little attention, for example. But Akcam is very careful in the details he presents - and they are comprehensive - and he puts them together in a way that makes what happened quite clear: The Young Turks regarded the existence of a large and subjugated Armenian minority with aspirations of self-determination as a threat to the territory they claimed as their own, so they destroyed the Armenian population, systematically. The responses one hears - that Turks also suffered, sometimes at the hands of Armenians; that Turks are not bad people; that others have done bad things (the destruction of native Americans by the US and Canada, for example) - are reasonable, but they don't change the fact that this was a strategic genocide.

The book is replete with detail - so much so that it's sometimes it's hard to keep all the names straight. For this reason, the narrative isn't as reader-friendly as it might be. But without the detail the author's conclusion about Turkish responsibility would be less convincing, so I think the detail is actually necessary.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Arresto Vendetta on May 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book provides a succinct and clear summary of the Armenian genocide, and its consequences for thinking about national responsibility. The author's subsequent books, The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012) and Judgment at Istanbul: The Armenian Genocide Trials, with Vahakn Dadrian (New York: Berghahn Books, 2011) are more detailed and probably better suited for those readers who are interested in the historiographical details of research on this genocide.

Read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. D. LeDu on November 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Any work on the Ottomans and Armenians in 1915-1916 runs into three major problems: Turkish denial, Armenian intransigence, and lack of documentation. Taner Akçam attempts to address the third. In doing so, he has become the hero of the second and the victim of the first.

I have traveled extensively in Turkey, speak some Turkish, and love the Turkish people. I am always dismayed, though, at the lack of understanding many Turks have of their own history. When the alphabet was changed from Arabic to Latin in 1928, most Turks became instantly "illiterate". After a generation, there were few who could read their own history or the documents that it produced. Turkish school books were written to sanitize and idealize the founding of the Republic. The Armenian "genocide" was rewritten to mean a period in which Turks were victims of Armenian terror and massacres. I have visited museums in Turkey that proclaim that the only "genocide" was that attempted on the Turks by the Armenians.

On the other hand, the most vocal of those publicly taking the Armenian side are almost hysterical in their hatred of all things Turkish. They vituperously attack writers who point out that, indeed, there were many Armenians who sided with the Russians, or that there were some Armenian terrorist groups, or that Ottoman incompetence created many of the problems, or that not all Turks agreed with the actions against the Armenians.

Akçam has made an admirable effort to sort through the available Turkish documents (most of which have been cleansed by the various governments - Ottoman, Young Turk and Republic). He also reviewed German, French, English, Russian and American documents to compare with the Turkish.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Minnesotan on September 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
Prof. Akcam's work is an essential book in the field. I use it for teaching the topic in general, and also to discuss the politics of history and how evidence runs up against official narratives of the type espoused by the Turkish government. Prof. Akcam has done the discipline and the world a great service with this work.
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By Ara Dembekjian on June 29, 2014
Format: Paperback
Turkey had always denied committing the Armenian Genocide. The reasons of denial are national and international.
Tamer Akcam and other Turkish intellectuals have had courageously admitted Turkey's guilt.
Contents of this book are absolute facts.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael Griswold VINE VOICE on July 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book garnered a lot of attention when it was published several years ago because it's a Turkish scholar with a sympathetic view towards the Armenians.

While I'm no genocide expert, it does strike one as curious that there are so many records that don't exist from the time period in question. If Turkey and/or the Ottoman Empire really had nothing to hide in this matter than where are the records? With that said, these holes in the historical record create a weaker accounting of events.

I would've liked to have heard more from witnesses of these massacres rather then just witnesses reported xyz, as evidence of genocide or the intent to genocide. Not sure that's Acham's fault, But it comes across as choppy and difficult to follow.

One thing I did appreciate was that there was a fair heaping of blame on any number of parties from the Ottoman/Turks, Germans to the Great Powers (Russia, Great Brittan, France, USA. ) Genocide does not happen just because one group decides to exterminate another, but because those who can stand up and do something about it, don't. These sections of the book were better spelled out than the case FOR GENOCIDE made in the first half of the book. Call it a mixed bag.
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